- From Faith Current: “The Sacred Ordinary: St. Peter’s Church Hall” - May 1, 2023
- A brief (?) hiatus - April 22, 2023
- Something Happened - March 6, 2023
This morning the following video was dropped on Twitter, and it’s been lighting up our comments, so here:
So, basically, “A Hard Day’s Night,” circa 1969—which is what lots of Beatles fans wanted in 1970, and maybe even more want in 2020. It’s really striking to see them doing the same kinds of cuts and capers they did in 1964, but with High Hippiedom swirling about them, and Yoko playing the role of Patti Boyd.
Anybody who’s ever cut together a film knows that the narrative is created by the editing; and Jackson’s narrative is plainly meant to counterbalance the “Get Back sessions were torture” narrative that has existed since the original movie appeared. Is this is good thing? Well, it’s certainly an entertaining thing, and the Beatles were entertainers then and a brand now. So a happy re-edit makes a certain kind of sense, and I will queue up along with the rest of you and excitedly so.
But I will be keeping two things in mind.
The first is that “Let It Be” was what it was, because of the time in which it was created. 1969/70 popular culture was filled with myth-busters and antiheroes; it was the year of Easy Rider, a year where the spectacularly grubby Midnight Cowboy (!) won Best Picture. Incidentally, the most important British film of that year, the anti-patriotic Oh! What a Lovely War, was nearly a Beatles project. According to producer Len Deighton, he and Paul McCartney had lunch in 1967, discussing a version of the movie starring the Fabs and using new music by them (rather than the period music that forms the emotional center of the play, and eventually, film).
Some part of this late-60s demolition was simply fashion, grist for the mill; but at its best, there was a well thought out, humane philosophy behind it, a belief that myths get people killed. So, what did the Beatles wish to say to their fans, circa 1969? Here is what we really are, here is what it really is. Don’t be fooled (perhaps like we were). I discuss the unremittingly dour Let It Be, and its possibilities, at some length here.
So Let It Be was and will ever be a drag, but a Beatle movie that showed the Fabs “trousers off” was just as in tune as AHDN had been in 1964. In 1969, showing a Beatle with pimples wasn’t mere nihilism, it was an artistic statement, and it was one that Chief Beatle Lennon was 100% committed to, as well as the others. So rather than the footage being edited to prettify it, to shine lime-colored light on the group’s smoothest showman (as Lennon famously groused), I suspect LIB was edited with this verité aspect in mind, skewing a bit towards the negative.
If that’s one thought the other will be this: It wasn’t just how Let It Be was edited that has given it the shabby reputation it has. At/near the time, everybody dismissed that period and those sessions as a godawful drag—that is why we all thought it! We were taking our lead from J/P/G/R, the only people who would know, and their opinion was consistent. If Jackson’s Get Back is a ball and a blast, it’s running counter to what John, Paul, George, and even Ringo said during the 70s and 80s. This is heavy revisionism and should be judged as such. By the time of the Anthology, with no John around to bust myths, and when it was abundantly clear that there would be no new Beatles—hence even downer Beatles was pretty damn great—everyone’s opinions on January 1969 started to soften. That process has ultimately culminated in this project. Our ravening need for Beatle content meant that even Let It Be would inevitably be coated in the honey of nostalgia. It’s only remarkable that it’s taken this long.
One last point: this project was inspired by Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old,” which uses AI and other digital tricks to turn footage from 1914-18 into something more recognizable as reality. For anyone interested in World War I, the modernization of the images performs a tremendous service—we suddenly see those men as real people, not herky-jerky shadows engaged in some ghoulish puppetshow. The digital trickery—from interpolation of frames to colorization to dubbing—turned something made to seem unreal, feel real again.
What’s going on here with Get Back is different. We already know these men; the technology used in Let It Be does not make them feel distant. It’s the content of that story that is alienating, and it was alienating to us because that’s how it felt to John, Paul, George, and Ringo. But as much as we (and they) didn’t like it, there’s nothing in the past 51 years that has suggested the fractious, smothering story depicted in Let It Be was wrong.
It seems that what Jackson and his crew are attempting is to change the content, so that we have a LIB-era Beatles the way we wish they’d been—and maybe the way THEY wish they been—rather than how they really were. As much as I think Lennon and Harrison would’ve enjoyed counting the money—and Get Back post-COVID will be massive—I think those two particularly would’ve had qualms. Stardom was not easy for them; it took big bites out of them, it scarred them. John and George were especially interested in myth-busting because they felt what living as myths had done to their soul, and weren’t sure the trade had been worth it. Perhaps not coincidentally, they were the ones who left us early. So when I’m watching Get Back—and enjoying it—I’ll be hearing cautionary whispers from John and George. Whether they make you go over the top at the Somme, or make you smoke, or walk New York without a bodyguard, myths can get you killed.
Thank you for this, Michael. So pleased you had time to post your thoughts about this little preview that Peter Jackson posted.
I had read that Richy had already been seeing bits of Jackson’s new film and he was saying how lovely was the film footage of those days. Seems incredible looking at this lovely flowery version of Let It Be. I hated Let It Be and did not retain my video copy of the film. It really made me so sad. So yeah, I will be the little 12 year old Beatle fan and be happy with the August 2021 version of AHDN by Peter Jackson. I know I will be virtually holding hands with Richy who will like it too.
Just seeing them happy and smiling and laughing again is joyous. As Richy said the music is there, the humor, the joy. The pleasure they had in each other’s company is there.
Yoko has said that John wanted to bring her into The Beatles. I never heard him say that. I don’t see how that would have been possible. I can’t see Paul, George or Ringo voting her in. And Yoko wanted to move back to NYC. Which certainly happened a few years later.
I believe there was a scene described in the Doggett book where John, at a Beatles meeting said something to the effect of “Yoko and I are one and the same, the same person at this point…etc” and then Ringo chimes in saying “But John, she never be a Beatle” and John arguing that she is and they’ve absorbed into one person…something weird like that.
I dont know if John ever went as far as to absolutely declare her a Beatle. In his own mind she probably was while the other three rolled their eyes and tried to maintain their wits about them. She was there so often. Truly the tiniest yet most impactful elephants in the room that ever existed.
Yet I also heard him say that he used Yoko as a way out, which I think is closer to the truth. John was a bundle of contradictions; thought it was common knowledge by now that everything shouldn’t be taken at face value.
There’s no contradiction here. The melding WAS the way out.
The other three Beatles didn’t want to be in a group with Yoko Ono (why would they? Yoko wasn’t a rock musician). By insisting that he and Yoko are the same person, John is forcing the other three Beatles to either 1) kick him out, which they’d never do, or 2) leave, which Paul eventually did. Thus, she’s his way out. And this only works if Yoko is a really inappropriate choice; if it’s impossible to incorporate her. John picked Yoko because she could never be the Fifth Beatle. So he could then insist that she be that, and break up the group under cover of love.
It’s a bit like the Big Lie in politics: the more absurd it is, the more of a loyalty test one’s acquiescence becomes. Yoko was the last person on Earth to be the Fifth Beatle; that’s why John picked her, and said he “merged” with her.
There’s infatuation, and we’ve all gone through that. But this is infatuation PLUS politics, the zeitgeist of the time. John used his relationship with Yoko as a weapon to force a choice: either become the backing group for JohnandYoko, or break up the Beatles. There was no middle ground here, and that was the point.
It’s actually pretty astounding that they put up with it for as long as they did — can you imagine John’s reaction if Paul had insisted that Linda be a Beatle? Or George, Patti? Or Ringo, Maureen? It was no more appropriate for John to insist that his new lover, an obscure if well-respected conceptual artist, be a member of The Beatles, and if anybody’s going to argue that it was appropriate, they should be prepared to answer, “So why not Maureen?”
And it wasn’t feminism that made John demand Yoko’s inclusion; he hadn’t ever insisted that another woman be a member of the group. Nor had Yoko ever shown any interest in making Beatle-like music, for a Beatle-like audience. John’s narcissism made him make the demand; Yoko’s narcissism made her acquiesce to it; and neither really thought what life would be like after John didn’t have his band to sell records for him, or that the silly conceit of “merging as a single consciousness” would become a lot less interesting when it was paying the utility bill, not speaking to the international press.
The whole thing is very damaged and dopey, in both senses of that word.
I don’t really agree with this. I think John wanted to merge as a single consciousness with Paul, hence his delight when Paul agreed to take LSD with him and his fury when Paul said no more (in India if I had to guess).
The John and Paul as Lovers thread is interesting, but whether or not they were lovers seems a bit beside the point, or at least, not really irrelevant. For me, it seems clear that John wanted to merge with Paul, and that he used Yoko to try and force Paul to acquiesce, then went completely off the rails when he wouldn’t.
What merging as a single consciousness with John would have looked like for Paul is anyone’s guess, but he obviously had a taste of it when he took LSD with John, and it apparently disturbed him enough that he was willing to walk away from his songwriting partnership and let Yoko have John before going there again.
By 1969, John looked like someone whose soul had been sucked out of him. No doubt that’s the danger of merging consciousness with someone else – you lose yourself in the process. Of course, that’s what John wanted, but he was forced to settle for Yoko in my opinion – partly to save his pride and partly because he didn’t have any other option.
@Elizabeth, it’s an interesting theory, but there’s no evidence whatever that John wanted to “merge into a single consciousness” with Paul. He never said or wrote that to my knowledge (provide a link and I’ll believe it), whereas his JohnandYoko thing of ’68-’69 is well documented.
The Standard Narrative–much of which comes from John himself, and Paul himself–is that John and Paul were increasingly alienated from each other, and viewed each other as competitors. Whether we agree with that or think it’s overstating things, we have to give it pride of place as what they said.
You’re taking a couple of well-known events and knitting them into a Grand Unified Theory, which is fun but do hold it lightly. First of all, dropping acid with someone is no guarantee that you will “merge consciousness” with them (whatever that might mean); as of late ’66-early ’67 John had taken enough trips that he would’ve known that there was really no telling what might happen if he and Paul took acid together, and I think perhaps that was part of the appeal! Regardless, there does seem to be a desire among acid-heads to turn others on, to share their quasi-religious revelatory experience with the people they care about, but it’s not necessarily any kind of “two-become-one” soul-merging. What can happen (so I hear) is a perception of Oneness with the universe, a loss of the ego, a sense of smallness, etc. But even that’s not guaranteed.
If you’re interested in psychedelics, a good place to start is the site Erowid; they are people who know.
In my own experience, via meditation there is definitely a very gentle sense of ego-loss, but it’s not like you’re merging with only your friend on the cushion next to you; I have meditated sitting next to very very dear friends and while you may start out feeling them, pretty soon you’re perceiving yourself and them and everybody in the room and all the trees and animals and grass and cars and quasars as One Thing, i.e. Not Separate. Pretty soon the idea of loving your friend and not loving that squirrel or this planet or the entire Milky Way seems farcical — pure ego.
Once you’ve had that “big oneness” feeling, be it through acid or meditation, accompanying someone into the bathroom because you are One Person seems absurd. It seems like losing your ego, but staying in control so that you merge with Yoko and not Ringo, not your cat, not the desk. If you’re choosing only to merge with your girlfriend, by definition you haven’t lost your ego; what’s making that distinction? Your ego. And you haven’t weakened your boundaries, you’ve strengthened them. JohnandYoko was a game they played, not any kind of authentic spiritual exercise.
Paul said they “dissolved into each other”, perhaps even without the use of a psychedelic agent. But he was disturbed by the long-term effects of LSD, not his trip with John:
In McCartney’s biography, the legendary Beatle detailed his experience with Lennon like two star-crossed poets: “And we looked into each other’s eyes, the eye contact thing we used to do, which is fairly mind-boggling. You dissolve into each other. But that’s what we did, round about that time, that’s what we did a lot,” the singer recalled. “And it was amazing. You’re looking into each other’s eyes and you would want to look away, but you wouldn’t, and you could see yourself in the other person. It was a very freaky experience and I was totally blown away.”
In the book, McCartney also speaks about the effects of LSD and how he struggled to comprehend it’s power. “There’s something disturbing about it. You ask yourself, ‘How do you come back from it? How do you then lead a normal life after that?’ And the answer is, you don’t. After that you’ve got to get trepanned or you’ve got to meditate for the rest of your life. You’ve got to make a decision which way you’re going to go.”
He continued: “I would walk out into the garden – ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go back in.’ It was very tiring, walking made me very tired, wasted me, always wasted me. But ‘I’ve got to do it, for my well-being.’ In the meantime, John had been sitting around very enigmatically and I had a big vision of him as a king, the absolute Emperor of Eternity.”
“It was a good trip. It was great but I wanted to go to bed after a while.”
In my opinion, primal scream therapy probably had more to do with John “losing his soul” than any merged consciousness factor. Once he dropped Janov he was back to his old, albeit drinking, self.
Oh I remember some of this now. Fascinating.
John had been experimenting with stuff like this since he was a kid, looking into the mirror until his face melted, etc. It’s self-inducing trance states.
The thing about this is: when you fuck with your ego, your ego can get scared and start fucking with you in return. That’s what happened in India, I suspect. You can only talk about “ego-death” so much until your ego is like, “we’ll see about that!” 🙂
Well, it is true that it’s just a theory, and that it doesn’t disprove the official narrative. I don’t believe the official narrative, but I also can’t come up with the evidence to disprove it. If I could, I’d write the definitive book (a lot quicker than Lewisohn, by the way) and retire.
However, here’s what I think:
1. Paul took LSD with John in an attempt to reconnect with him. The idea of it (of taking LSD with John, not of taking LSD, which he had already done), frightened him, but he did it, one would presume in an attempt to find a way of reaching John in his drug haze – ‘To get with John’, as George Martin put it.
2. This made John very happy. I don’t have the exact quote, and I’m a bit snowed under with work at the moment, so don’t have time to cross reference, but I believe Pete Shotton said that John was the happiest he had ever been. (Not specifically in reference to Paul taking LSD with John, but during this timeframe.)
3. Jane Asher was jealous of the ‘spiritual experiences’ that Paul shared with John on LSD, and Paul later compared those experiences to ‘looking into someone’s eyes and seeing yourself reflected back so that you merge with the other person.’
From that, I would infer that the spiritual experiences shared by John and Paul involved a merging of consciousness which allowed them to reconnect. But I think the price of that was too high for Paul. Obviously not for John, who didn’t care whether he lived or died, but definitely for Paul, who didn’t want to turn into a junkie like John. So he stopped taking it (even though he knew it was the only way to reach John) and John replaced him with Yoko.
I think John used Yoko to try and provoke a reaction from Paul, once he perceived that Paul had given up trying to reconnect with him. He wanted Paul to fight for him, which Paul knew because he told the others that fighting Yoko was one of the choices available to him. But he didn’t – presumably to save his own sanity. I’m sure he loved John, but he obviously couldn’t save him. That’s the thing about drug addicts – you can try to help, but in the end, you have to walk away to save yourself from being dragged down with them.
I do agree that JohnandYoko was a game they played, or that it started out that way at least. Once John lost everyone else and only had Yoko to cling to, I think it became something darker. But I think it began as a strategy to get a reaction from Paul.
Of course, I could be completely wrong. But I still don’t believe the official narrative, and I don’t think it was about unrequited love or lust or whatever. I just think they were done in by drugs.
@Elizabeth, I think all that’s right on the money. Increasingly I find myself here addressing Grand Unified Theories of the Beatle story, and while I too have many problems with the standard narrative, I think it’s wisest to use it as a baseline.
In my experience, the thing about addicts is that everything lives at a very high tenor of emotionality. They LOVE you or HATE you; they think you LOVE them or HATE them; you must PROVE your undying love; they’ll NEVER speak to you again…That’s what I see between John and Paul after 1966. Then you add in the reality-destabilizing aspects of drug use in general and psychedelics in particular, and really anything is possible. It’s going to be very difficult for us normals to decode, because you have the addict layer, and the fame layer, and the wealth layer, and the drugs layer, and the sexual layer (whatever that might’ve been).
“He wanted Paul to fight for him, which Paul knew because he told the others that fighting Yoko was one of the choices available to him. But he didn’t – presumably to save his own sanity.”
There is an interview with Paul in 1985 on German TV where he says, “If I was a girl” he would have fought for John. Here is the video (the German overdub is enough to drive one crazy, though. Can’t they use subtitles?) Someone was kind enough to transcribe: https://amoralto.tumblr.com/post/165129421967/april-3rd-1985-soho-square-london-paul-talks
‘There’s an interview with Paul in 1985 on German TV where he says, ‘If I were a girl’ he would have fought for John.’
@Michelle – it seems to me that Paul is as anxious to promote the JohnandYoko narrative as John and Yoko themselves. That statement just reinforces the official story – that John fell in love with Yoko and Paul could not stand in the way of that.
The JohnandYoko narrative is a lot more palatable than the alternative, which is John was strung out on drugs and screaming out for help, using Yoko (followed by Allen Klein, followed by Phil Spector) to try and get a reaction out of Paul, but Paul put his own sanity first and did not try to save John.
Not that I think it’s a coincidence that John happened to go completely off the rails when Linda arrived on the scene. He obviously knew he was about to lose Paul, which was why he went for broke with JohnandYoko in my opinion (‘Look, Paul – I’m merging consciousness with Yoko now. You better do something to stop me quick.’)
It doesn’t mean they were lovers (though it certainly wouldn’t surprise me), just that John wanted Paul to save him but Paul walked away to save himself – which is what most people who have to deal with drug addicts end up doing. The price was too high for Paul, who had everything to lose, but not for Yoko, who had everything to gain.
However, if Paul McCartney had attempted to explain this to the media in 1985, he would have been crucified. Much safer to peddle the official narrative.
That’s why I think anyway.
@Elizabeth, that’s pretty much what I think, too, with a heavy overlay of a specific type of psychological discomfort that I am planning to write about on the site soon.
@Michael – I would go a bit further and say that John’s Lost Weekend was LIB, Part Two. Again, he wanted Paul (who had been his caretaker for all those years) to save him, and again, Paul wouldn’t do it. By save, I mean wind back the clock. I think he wanted to go home and for things to go back to the way they had been in the early days. But you can’t go backwards in life, and it’s clear that Paul could no longer be the one person John relied on.
I read one of your comments a while ago about Paul’s role as John’s caretaker and how you thought there was a connection between that and his relationship with his father. It’s an interesting theory, but I don’t get the impression that Paul’s father was that much of a drinker. Don’t get me wrong, hard drinking was a fact of life in post-war Northern Britain, but Paul’s father seems to me to have been a moderate sort of person, who would have known when to stop.
I think Paul became John’s caretaker out of necessity. John was unreliable so Paul had to do whatever was necessary to keep him productive. His own success depended on it.
If anything, I think Paul was motivated by the fear of losing what he’d worked so hard to achieve. He had already sacrificed his education at a top grammar school for the band/his songwriting partnership with John – if it all went tits up, he had nothing to fall back on. So he did what was necessary to ensure success, including being John’s caretaker.
I think Yoko referred to John and Paul’s relationship as ‘unhealthy’, and she was right in this respect. A relationship like that is always eventually going to lead to resentment on both sides.
@Elizabeth, excuse me first while I stop chuckling; the idea of Yoko Ono characterizing ANY relationship as “unhealthy” is…
As to where Paul got his caretaker tendencies, it could’ve been Jim, or it could’ve been Mary, or it could’ve been a pattern established a generation earlier, not rooted out, and taught to him by Jim or Mary. The alcoholic family matrix seems to persist until you identify it and take the difficult psychological steps to remove it intentionally. “X behavior is wrong and hurtful, and instead I’m going to do y, even though y feels strange, unloving and cold and the rest of my family would flip out if they knew.”
“Excessive drinking” is not the marker, necessarily; it’s a set of behaviors, usually well-hidden on purpose. You can act like an alcoholic, and not drink a drop (the so-called “dry drunk” thing). It’s the behaviors that form the people around you. If Jim was teetotal but he was critical, cutting, demanded perfection, etc, that might be good enough. Or it could’ve been Jim’s parent, who formed Jim, and then Jim formed Paul because that’s the only way he knew how to parent. And Jim could’ve done all those things and really loved Paul, too.
Given that Paul is who he seems to be–I think he’s as much The Hero as The Caretaker–it’s a fairly good bet that someone shaped him into that as a child. These are patterns that are taught. Who he learned it from, and why, is a bit of a parlor game. We know he’s a Hero; we also know he was (or could make himself into) a Caretaker because there’s no way to have been in a close creative partnership with John Lennon from 1957-1970 for him NOT to be.
And the level of investment is so intense that it can’t be a gambit. It can’t be, “Well, I’ll prop this guy’s life up to keep this good thing going.” It may well have started like that, but after some date — 1965? — it was clear that Paul could’ve had a tidy little career as a solo act, maybe more than tidy. He stayed close to John, stayed enabling John, because it fed something in him. And when you come from a family with addictive patterns, and you’re the caretaker, caretaking is *deeply satisfying*. Until it goes too far and, as you say, you begin to resent it. I think that’s what was happening in Scotland in 1969 — Paul was FURIOUS at having done his Hero and Caretaker stuff for 12 years, and now he’s getting dumped? Being Paul, he directed that inward. He was so furious, in fact, that he swore never to take care of John again; and he was furious enough to keep that promise to himself.
These are my guesses; take what helps and leave the rest.
@Elizabeth- But it was Yoko who approached Paul to “save” John in LA. As far as John wanting to turn back the clock to the early days, it was Paul who invited him to the V&M sessions, which John agreed to but changed his mind (sadly) when Yoko entered the picture again.
@Michael – I completely agree with you that children are shaped by the behaviour of their parents.
Paul, it seems, was shaped into a child who was extremely anxious about money. He grew up on council estates, of course, but mostly because his mother was housed in the communities she worked in. She was a nurse, his father a salesman – they were solid middle class careers in post war Liverpool.
I grew up in Liverpool, a couple of decades after Paul, but in similar surroundings. But where Paul’s mum was a nurse, mine was a hospital cleaner, and the only salesman I knew was the man who worked in the corner shop. We weren’t rich (obviously), but we weren’t poor either. The cost of living was relatively cheap in those days and we never went without.
A nurse and a salesman would have earned way in excess of my parents, but their outgoings, living in similar surroundings, couldn’t have been that different. Paul’s family couldn’t have been that badly off. So what shaped Paul into a child so anxious about money that the only thing he could say when he found out his mum had died was, ‘What will we do without her money?’
I would guess that his mother, who worked her way out of abject poverty at a time when social mobility was basically unheard of, was traumatised by her poor childhood, and that she passed that trauma onto Paul. I bet she worried about money all the time and that it was the cause of a lot of arguments in what was otherwise a happy home.
Of course, it could be that Mary’s father was an alcoholic and that his behaviour shaped her into a traumatised adult, who in turn shaped Paul into a traumatised child. That would make sense, though I have no idea if he was.
@Elizabeth, another way of looking at this data:
1) Money anxiety is ANXIETY.
2) Mary and Paul are both primarily anxious people who attempt to address this by work and common anxiety-relieving substances. Both lives seem to be well-ordered, and if there’s addiction to those substances, it’s very very high-functioning.
3) Still, anxiety doesn’t explain Paul’s behavior precisely. It doesn’t explain why, of all the people in the world, he picked John Lennon to collaborate with, George to be friends with, and Ringo to get into the band. Alcoholic family patterns DO explain that; not only that these four boys recreated an alcoholic family matrix in their group (John as the addict; Paul as the hero/caretaker; George as the Lost Boy; Ringo as the clown/mascot), but those complimentary, interlocking roles predict how close they were, how they interacted with each other throughout the history of the Beatles, and then what eventually broke them up. They HAD to break up — or change. It was not a healthy system.
So does anxiety, the McCartney family trait, overlap with alcoholism? Would a genetic predilection towards anxiety suggest a higher prevalence of alcoholism in the McCartney family? Here’s literally what came up on Google when I typed in “relationship between anxiety and alcoholism”: “Researchers have found that the risk for having either an anxiety disorder or alcohol use disorder is about three times greater if the other disorder is present.”
So, to me, it makes perfect sense that Paul was an anxious child, with a mother whose anxiety was the engine that drove her to better her financial situation; and his anxiety was the engine to better his financial situation. And Paul, being an anxious child, is three times more likely to have been a child whose family was also marked by alcoholism. And those alcoholic family patterns were the way that the McCartneys looked at the world, how they treated each other, etc.
John Lennon’s exactly the wrong guy to pick as a partner, if you’re anxious. But if you’ve been trained to be a caretaker/hero, you and he will glom together like brothers.
@Michelle – Mmm.
John was in LA giving interviews to Elliot Mintz (of course) about how he was ready to reform the Beatles. He was making an album of songs from his youth. He was telling everyone who would listen how homesick he was.
As for Yoko, do you honestly believe that she didn’t do that to manipulate John? That he didn’t know she was planning to do it? After John had said he wished he was back with Paul?
I think you wrote in a reply to one of my comments that you don’t believe John said that. Maybe he didn’t. But then again, he didn’t need to, did he?
@Michael – But what’s missing from this analysis is the impact of loss on Paul’s behaviour.
If you are a child who has been shaped by a parent to be anxious about money and you then experience a devastating loss which reinforces what you have always been taught – that everything can be snatched away from you in the blink of an eye – then the likelihood is, you will grow up to be an adult who will fight to hang on desperately to what is yours. Someone like that is going to be controlling – of their environment and of the people around them – because they are motivated by the fear that at any minute everything could be snatched away from them.
That’s why Paul was controlling, in my opinion. He was traumatised by the loss of his mother. John was probably drawn to him because his life was chaotic and he needed to be controlled.
Maybe there are overlaps with an alcoholic family matrix. But to me, John and Paul’s relationship was shaped by the way in which they had each been impacted by loss – one of them needy and the other one controlling. That’s why they chose each other, I think.
@Elizabeth- I remember that conversation. While I wish John really said that, and don’t dismiss it as impossible, I’m wary of McClennon quotes being invented and making the rounds as something one of them (or Cynthia) actually said. There are plenty of real quotes they can use. “I wish I was back with so-and-so” sounds like something an ex would say, especially when having an argument with a current partner. Who is the source of that quote? Yoko?
I’ve listened to several of the interviews John did with Elliot Mintz in LA. In one, a Beatles reunion was brought up and he said, “You never know.” In another, he was asked if there was still any hostility between him and Paul, and he said no – that he hopes his album does well, hopes the James Bond theme does well, wishes them all well and much success: “As long as I don’t have to be a part of it, it’s great.” If John wanted a reunion wouldn’t there have been a reunion? Maybe he did at one point, like they all did at certain points (according to Paul) just never all four at the same time.
The Rock ‘n Roll album wasn’t nostalgia so much as John’s obligation as a result of the “Come Together” lawsuit.
“If John wanted a reunion wouldn’t there have been a reunion?”
Oh gosh, there were a whole world of factors surrounding that. Legal concerns for one; financial agreements. Plus John himself seemed to change opinions based on who he’d talked to last. Plus, George would’ve been reluctant in the extreme. I think it could’ve happened–in fact, I think it would’ve happened in the early 1980s–but certainly during the years John was talking to Eliot Mintz, there were huge practical barriers to a four-person reunion.
Now, John sitting in with Paul during the “Venus and Mars” sessions? I think that was going to happen, until John moved back in with Yoko. I was just saying to someone yesterday that “Rockshow” has always sounded to me like the beginning of the next McCartney concept LP, one meant to dovetail with concerts co-starring John Lennon.
JohnandYoko was a game they played, not any kind of authentic spiritual exercise.
@Michael G, I have been wanting to pick the Dullbloggers’ brains about Mark Lewisohn’s apparent belief in and admiration for the JohnandYoko love story. And his statement that “there will be readers who will think that Klein was a bit of a hero” after reading the 3rd volume of “Tune In.” And his denial that John (and Yoko) were ever really addicted to heroin.
My inner cynic can’t help but notice that the common denominator of all these surprising assertions is: “highly beneficial to Yoko.”
As much as we might like Lewisohn to be an impartial biographer, and as much as he desperately wants us to think he is, the reality is that he’s The Beatles house scribe. He was super-important—an essential writer—during the pre-Anthology years, when the important job was as much archiving as analysis. Now that the job is all analysis, the very things that make him palpable to the partners cannot help make him biased in equal measure.
Yoko wants to control the story utterly. She has been collecting every available copyrightable Lennon photo for the last 40 years, for example. Leaving aside the question of why – which should be asked — this puts someone like Lewisohn in a bit of a difficult position; if Yoko doesn’t cooperate, or cooperates and then recants her statements, his book and it’s sales are deeply marred. For his project to succeed, Lewisohn needs Yoko on board, 100%.
This reality doesn’t mean that he is lying; he could very well believe The Ballad. But we as readers must keep in mind that a book like this depends on access, and access means that the celebrities control what is said.
” . . . this puts someone like Lewisohn in a bit of a difficult position; if Yoko doesn’t cooperate, or cooperates and then recants her statements, his book and its sales are deeply marred. For his project to succeed, Lewisohn needs Yoko on board, 100%”
Exactly. See also: Philip Norman. When he was writing his Lennon bio, he went out of his way to get Yoko on his side (and he’s said it was his remark that Lennon was “80 percent of the Beatles” that helped him get that access). Then, after the bio was published, Yoko pulled her endorsement of it.
Now, in his more recent McCartney bio, Norman spends the intro explaining this background and essentially disavowing his earlier allegiance to the “Ballad of John and Yoko” version of history and his consequent harsh criticism of McCartney.
“Access” is one hell of a drug.
This is actually to Annie M re Lewisohn, but there’s no Reply button.
I have to admit I got worried when I heard those remarks from Lewisohn.
I get why Paul supports the JohnandYoko myth and the “wedding bells broke up the Beatles” story. The company line is a simple tale that’s in line with what another quarter of the company wants. It’s John’s version without the acrimony.
But Lewsiohn is supposed to be an impartial biographer, and he’s not only offering a slanted view, he’s ignoring facts.
John and Yoko didn’t have a mythical love, but rather a remarkable gift for marketing, you don’t go though cold turkey without being addicted, and Klein as any kind of hero is a joke. He only looked out for number one.
I don’t know that it has anything to do with Yoko though. I think it’s just Lewisohn’s John fanboy side coming on strong. I think those tendencies are present if somewhat under control in Tune In, but it’ll be VERY unfortunate if he’s less able to control them for future volumes.
@Annie M – I agree with Michael that Lewisohn is sucking up to the Lennon estate to gain access to information. This makes a mockery of his quest for ‘truth’, but I seriously doubt whether his motivation for writing the ‘definitive story’ is a noble as he likes to preach.
I’m not really a Lewisohn fan. I think he’s extremely immature and that lacking in emotional
intelligence. What sort of person would claim to know how someone who had suffered a devastating loss was feeling? Who talks like that about anyone? It says so much about Lewisohn that he isn’t able to edit himself – that he has no filter. I can see why he identifies with John and Yoko.
Also, his book badly needed a better editor. It was too long and most of it was boring and irrelevant filler.
I bet she worried about money all the time and that it was the cause of a lot of arguments in what was otherwise a happy home.
I just read on the Beatle Bio Review blog an excerpt from one of Mike’s books, which reveals that when Mary died she was in debt to a friend. She had borrowed some cash and given the friend a clock she owned to keep until she was able to repay. Not a big deal taken on its own, but was this happening frequently? If so, why? They should have been relatively comfortable as you pointed out, and presumably Mary would have been very conscientious about money.
I’m so glad people are talking about Paul having anxiety. He has always — since back before I even had their names straight let alone knew about their personalities, inner dynamics, who did what, etc.– seemed like quite an anxious person to me. Now that he’s admitted to being a hoarder (we been knew about the sentimental “memorabilia” items already but apparently it extends to like, bags and sacks, etc.) I hope the Cheapskate-Paul narrative can mature into a more nuanced and productive discussion within the fandom.
While the snippets Jackson and his team have chosen to share certainly portray a bouncier, happier bunch than we’ve seen before, it doesn’t mean it’s not true or it’s only revisionism. I’ve never watched the bootleg hours and hours of footage, but I’ve read a few transcripts and heard several accounts of it and by and large the accounts — and this is pre-Peter-Jackson announcement — said that the footage wasn’t nearly as awful as what had been described and what was shown in Let It Be. AKOM podcast discussed the footage from a John & Paul’s partnership perspective and found lots of attempts to connect. Even Mark Lewisohn made a blog post of some sort, if I recall correctly, saying that once he’d watched it all he realized he’d been wrong about that period of time all along in thinking it was dour unhappiness.
I finally watched the full Let it Be movie last year and didn’t love it, despite my affection for McBeardy McCartney. Like you mention about the editing choices at the time, for whatever reason Lindsay-Hogg did what he did, it was just so goddamned dark and shadowy, almost until they get on the roof, when they all seem to come alive. Even normal or even normally grumpy interactions took on this sense of malevolent foreboding in all that chiaroscuro. So then ML-H went and made “Two of Us” to try and revision himself, maybe?
Anyway, it seems we all know what happened: the band broke up, there were fights, there were reconciliations and more fights and then some reconciliations, and then John was murdered. So it’s not like they can change the story in essence. And we’re getting something celebrating what made The Beatles The Beatles instead of only enduring the death rattles?
I dunno, maybe it’s just been such a terrible year. If happyfuntimes are what they want to sell me at this moment, I’m so buying. Just seeing the brightened, clear footage is worth buckets.
@Kristy, couple thoughts joggled, take them fwiw.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg did exactly what The Beatles wanted him to. The cut we saw was precisely the what The Beatles wanted us to see…which is its own interesting question. Why did THEY want us to see the group coming apart?
Similarly this movie is Peter Jackson doing what the four partners want him to do. The partners, especially Paul and Yoko, have been backing off the “LIB sucked” idea for decades; so much so that LIB hasn’t been available. There’s an obvious reason why.
Second, the “those sessions sucked” idea came from the Beatles themselves. It was only after John’s death—and really after Anthology—was the idea that maybe they weren’t so bad started to be bruited about, and that was Paul and Ringo. Yoko was all for this, too, because those sessions form the linchpin of the “Yoko broke up the group” idea. Happy sessions helps put paid to that’s
In addition to Yoko’s commercial and personal interest, Paul’s instinct is always to put the best face on things, and Ringo’s not the most analytical fellow.
My point is, opinions close to the event should be given more weight than opinions forty years later. And a sophisticated examination of the possible motivations and pressures upon each party makes a reboot with a positive spin completely predictable. Maybe more acccurste, maybe less, but as predictable as how Disney manages Star Wars — history has nothing to do with it.
It’s a revision. And it’s a revision with a LOT of money at stake, managed by a really image-conscious group of celebrities, fifty years after the fact, when the half of the band which was prone to myth busting is dead. So I’m taking it with a grain of salt; as I did the original. But a happy story has massive commercial appeal in a way that a “warts and all” portrayal does not. Any sophisticated view of this has to factor that in. My impatience with most of the analysis out there is that it seems to be wholly armchair psychoanalysis, without much understanding of the business or other pressures afoot.
Michael, I don’t think Olivia Harrison would agree to the project if she felt it was not honest, or trying to erase the past. According to Paul, he and Ringo, plus Olivia and Yoko, must agree to any Beatle projects.
If Olivia hated it, or felt it was trying to rewrite history, she’d say so. She’s not afraid to speak her mind.
George has been dead for twenty years; this will make lots of money; if it got out that Olivia was the sticking point, Beatle fans would HATE her.
There’s a lot of pressure here, and none of it is to make an historically accurate item. You’d have to practically fetishize historical accuracy to get in the way of this train. Even I–with a definite fetish in that direction!–wouldn’t dream of saying no. It’s MORE BEATLES!
Yoko has a commercial interest, but I don’t understand how she benefits personally from Happy LIB.
If Jackson’s cut showed even more bickering, and the title was Get Back: It Was Even More Uncomfortable Than You Thought couldn’t Yoko say “See? They were at each other’s throats. I didn’t cause the breakup, this is what I walked into!”
Instead, Happy LIB is released. Fans love it and believe the boys were as happy as the day was long. “Look at all the fun they’re having in Twickenham! So why on earth did they break up? Yoko?”
I’ve never watched the original “Let it Be” because I know it would make me sad. So, I can’t comment on it, other than what I’ve read.
What I’m wondering is, why can’t both versions be true? Yes, the original shows a band breaking up, but underneath that there was still love for each other. So, it sounds like Peter Jackson is emphasizing the love rather than the animosity. From what I’ve read, it’s not meant to replace the original, it is just a look from a different perspective. Is that wrong?
It’s only “wrong” in how it will be perceived. There’s a huge temptation for fans to prefer the sweet to the sour. Plus it’s going to look better, and many many more people will see it than have ever seen Let It Be, which hasn’t been available for decades. This will become the standard narrative, and replace the old, less-fun one, and everybody will laugh all the way to the bank.
The Beatles are a business. Fans that do not factor this in, are their perfect customer. Within 20 years, The Beatles will be part of Disney.
The Beatles will be part of Disney.
Michael Blogmom Gerber! Dyou kiss your mother with that mouth!??
I’ll happily watch the movie, but I’ll pass on the new narrative, which requires some very of-this-moment believing PR over record evidence. So, we’re now to believe that the Get Back sessions were actually fun, and then for some reason Paul had to plead George Martin to produce Abbey Road and promise promise promise the group would behave themselves, and then they made that record, and then they….just broke up and sniped at each other in the press and on their records for ten years?
By the time the Beatles made Get Back, they’d had cameras on them for six straight years. They could turn on “Being Beatles” as needed, the same way that you or I can show up at our jobs and be however we’re expected to be by our bosses—enthusiastic, serious, funny, whatever. That’s what I see the Beatles doing here. Fact is, that’s what they were doing in A Hard Day’s Night, too, since their actual tours were not like that when the cameras were off—a lot more sex and drugs and a lot less jumping around in fields. The difference is, by January 1969, John Lennon is on heroin, incapable of writing a complete song, and looks wrecked most of the time; his girlfriend who hates rock music and probably hates his band is always next to him; Paul, always image conscious, is overweight and overwhelmed; and George is rightfully sullen and resentful about Paul and John, but especially John, treating him with less respect than Bob Dylan does. Like Michael G. said, this is all a matter of historical record. What we are being asked to do is to disbelieve (1) accounts from people who were there, immediately after the fact, and (2) what our own eyes and ears tell us when we see, for example, John, unwashed, unshaven, yellow, and uncommunicative, looking deeply in pain, or hear outtake after outtake of out-of-tone, forcedly-enjoyed oldies being rehearsed. We know what the Beatles look and sound like when they’re having fun; this isn’t it.
The joking around, the oldies, all of that is the Beatles trying something, anything, to give the camera crew something usable to work with. These are all old tricks for the group that had to Mach Shau every night, but the magic isn’t there. It’s like sex after the relationship has run its course but before anyone’s had the breakup conversation.
Agreed 100%. To not understand all this is to not understand the human experience of Beatledom, which is much more interesting and important than Moptops.
(OK, but what about sex and drugs in FIELDS?)
I used to think the White Album sessions were all them hating each other and not being able to work together. Then they released the 50th anniversary rerelease and in the outtakes and jam sessions you would hear John and Paul cracking jokes and the Beatles making each other laugh, or you could hear some of the joy between them in demos.
That’s not to ignore that sh*t times didn’t happen but maybe they were better at compartmentalising for the sake of getting on with recording then they were given credit for. I get The Beatles during Let it Be, despite a reluctant Paul, wanted out, John had pretty much already quit, he and Yoko were on/coming off heroin addiction etc
But I don’t think the fact that they were breaking up at the time and the fact that outside of the editing of Let it Be they actually enjoyed themselves and seemed happy around one is necessarily mutually exclusive.
Given how bitter they all were with each after the breakup it’s not a stretch to think their feelings clouded their perspective on what that time was like and in retrospect after some distance they realised it wasn’t all terrible?
@LeighAnn, what I see in this new footage, or in the jokey audio outtakes, are people who are not having fun trying very hard to not explode from the tension and unspoken anger in that room because they are at work and there are film crews on them. There’s something very exaggerated and unnatural about it that’s markedly different from the Rubber Soul outtakes on YouTube, where we see them casually working and joking at the same time. Or the giggling version of And Your Bird Can Sing. Or the early BBC sessions.
Paul and Ringo might now well genuinely believe, or want to believe, that the sessions weren’t so bad now. They are old men and the Beatles ending was so sad for both of them. It’s also pretty typical codependent/adult child of an addict behavior, and setting their own family histories aside, the Beatles were basically an alcoholic family with John as then addict. People in those families whitewash and remember selectively to survive and help the unit keep going. Especially the pleasers, like Paul had/chose to be.
Even this new cut looks uncomfortable to me. If you asked me what band I’d like to be in up until 1968, I’d easily say the Beatles. But compare this to The Who genuinely goofing their way through A Quick One? The Who looks way more fun to me.
John and Paul are gritting their teeth at each other while singing “Two of Us”. That’s not tension enough for you? 🙂
I don’t think their playfulness is contrived for the benefit of the cameras. They continued to perform great music together until the very end, even as they were fighting. Was that fake too? Or natural chemistry?
You mention that this happier new look Get Back movie is a revision of the original LIB movie but something being a revision doesn’t make it any less honest a depiction of the event.
In my opinion both the original LIB movie and the new Get Back movies are all a part of the same picture and the different edits are a result of the differing contemporary agendas. When LIB came out the band had broken up so rather than putting out a movie that showed a united front they wanted to show the tensions that had contributed to the break up and the comments from all four Beatles were a reflection of that, it’s probably easier to remember the fights and disharmony in the aftermath of the breakup than otherwise.
Regarding the myth making/ myth busting I don’t think things are as cut and dry as you do. John and George were as in to myth making as the other Beatles, maybe even more so. In John’s haste to breakdown the Beatles “myth” he spun some new ones (L/M stopped writing together in 1962, the LIB sessions were the most miserable sessions ever, the other Beatles treated John and Yoko horrifically with him backtracking on this by 1980 ) and George also spun myths of his own, particularly after the break up when he played up his tensions with Paul and went along with the party line that Paul was the only cause of tensions during the later stages of the band which we now know to be false given that he quit the band after a fight with John and not Paul, which might explain why John’s the one talking about getting Clapton in as a replacement.
All in all I’m looking forward to seeing a more balanced view of the Get Back/ LIB sessions. I hope we see more serious sections of the time period, not just the fun they had as that will be a more accurate depiction of the reality of the sessions.
@Lizzy, you’re right that Lennon and Harrison had an agenda in the Seventies to downplay, and distance themselves from, The Beatles. But it’s worth asking why.
The Beatles myth is hugely powerful, hugely seductive. Shit, even the Beatles REALITY is pretty fascinating. But for my money, when two of the four Beatles take great pains for the rest of their lives to emphasize “The Beatles wasn’t like the myth” — I believe them. And when Apple comes out with a version of LIB that’s Moptops ’69, as part of the fiftieth reunion stuff, that seems like more myth, not reality. And I feel a weird sense of loyalty to John and George, who took really every opportunity to say, “Don’t believe it”…not to believe it. To enjoy it, sure; but not believe it.
Some fans, in their heart of hearts, think AHDN is real. Even more will think Peter Jackson’s cut is real and–listen, it may be. I can’t have a final opinion without watching all 56 hours of tape, in order, with a daybook by my side. But saying that the Get Back sessions weren’t a bloodbath–especially the Twickenham portion–that’s akin to saying, “Actually, the Germans WON at D-Day.” And cutting together a documentary that says D-Day was a strategic retreat, doesn’t make it so. Truth exists outside of our wishes and Apple’s, and the power of visual media to be seen as reality. If a narrative’s been basically stable for 50 years, something that overturns it should be viewed with skepticism, especially if there’s great commercial benefit in that overturning.
Re: John and George as myth-makers/-busters, it’s always worth remembering that one of thier motives in “busting” the Beatles myth specifically was that….neither of them liked the fact that most of their best work had been done with The Beatles. Not saying any of the mythbusty things they said were untrue, just that if we’re going to dive into the topic at length it’s important to look at their motivation, too.
Say what you will about Paul’s ego, but he has always been remarkably willing not just to acknowledge this fact but to discuss and explore the topic at length. In fact I just recently read an article (from the early 2000s I think) where almost every single question was about why his output took a dive after the Beatles. At first I was like sure, these are just par-for-the-course Paul questions (because I’m so used to seeing them) until I got to like the 5th or 6th in a row and I suddenly went WAIT. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. This rando who’s never written a hit song in his life grilling PAUL MCCARTNEY on all his failings as an artist! And Paul goes along with it! At length! Like he just sits there earnestly engaging with these questions, looking at the issue from multiple angles and I was like….wow. Does any other artist get this kind of treatment?? I’m asking sincerely — maybe Bob Dylan or the Stones do?
ANYWAY. My point is that neither John nor George would EVER have stood for being talked to that way. (To be fair, John might have as he aged. Maybe.) And a good way to achieve that is to preemptively make it known that they will reject the premise of the question, which is that The Beatles really were that great.
PS thanks to Nancy & Gretchen for helping me with the icon question 🙂
Annie, good points. I’d add that anti-mythology can be its own powerful mythology. Tearing something down, or being in opposition to it, can be an effective way to create a new persona. I don’t think that’s *all* of what John or George was doing in the LIB era, but I think it was part of it, especially for John.
@Annie, I think you’re right that John had a bias against the Beatles — for lots of reasons — when he was slagging the January 1969 sessions. And if we hadn’t all heard the session tapes ad nauseam, it might be possible to dismiss some or most of John’s gripes as being mere myth-busting. But the music doesn’t lie: except for Paul, it’s by and large the work of a tired band at a low point in its creative arc. Lennon, particularly, is hardly there as a songwriter, and the band has to include songs from its own early days (“909”), scraps of standards (“Maggie Mae”) and reworkings of songs they’d already released (“Across the Universe”) just to fill out an LP’s worth of tunes. Paul’s in fine form on LIB, but the others aren’t.
When you add that irrefutable evidence of creative ebbing PLUS the negative opinions of at least John and George, it’s pretty heavy revision to suggest that the sessions weren’t the drag they seemed to be, and were said to be, and sound like. The question should be, why is there an effort now to revise them? Some pressing historical need? Maybe, but… I mean, as I said to Nancy this morning, I’ll be first in line for the movie, and the line will be millions long — and that right there is all the motive one needs. As commerce, which is what we’re talking about, Let It Be II: Just as Bad as You Remember is not an option, any more than Mandalorian II: Let’s Kill Baby Yoda.
As to Paul coming in for rougher treatment than the others, we must keep in mind that he’s a willing participant in all this. He wants to be interviewed, and if he didn’t want to answer certain questions, he wouldn’t answer them — or more likely, they wouldn’t ask. Questions are often pre-approved. Paul has been working with the press since he was a sophomore in college. He is now 78. Paul McCartney is, and has been for decades now, one of the most powerful people in showbiz; any time you think that something is being done to him, think again.
Paul chooses his level of public exposure; he chooses the time, the place, how much and by whom he is “grilled.” Dylan gets the Nobel Prize and won’t give interviews. Lennon went silent for five years when he was better-known than the President. Paul has always chosen to make himself much more accessible, and part of that is knowing that he can control the narrative; so that if someone says, “Tell me why Wild Life sucked so much more than Abbey Road,” he’s got an answer prepared. And he comes off as the humble genius (which to some degree he is) and the interviewer comes off as an asshole. But it’s a question worth asking, right? How come you didn’t do E=MC2 Part Two, Mr. Einstein?
The Stones may well get asked, “How come you peaked in 1968 and are still touring, Jesus Christ what boring people you are!” I wouldn’t know, I don’t read Stones interviews. But I suspect that if they did get asked that, they’d spike the question; the interesting thing is that Paul doesn’t spike it, and I suspect he doesn’t to elicit precisely the reaction you had. Paul elicits a great deal of protectiveness in his fans; that works for both sides, and it’s real…but it’s also not real, if you catch my drift.
Oh, I tend to agree with you that the Get Back sessions were pretty much as bad as John and George (and sometimes Paul, despite his professional optimism) recounted. I was speaking about exploration of John’s and George’s anti-Beatles-Myth stances in general. I think John and George hated, and would not have tolerated discussing, the fact that the bulk of their best work was done ’63-’71. Might this specifically have colored their memories of Get Back sessions? ..Hmm, I guess maybe, but I’m more inclined to think that particular period was something that didn’t need any coloring, y’know? It really was bad enough to fit the narrative sans revision. (George’s “I ALWAYS hated the fame!!” posture, on the other hand….)
As to Paul coming in for rougher treatment than the others, we must keep in mind that he’s a willing participant in all this.
I was thinking about this! That surely Paul McCartney can arrange not to be asked any questions he doesn’t want to be asked. I’m reminded of a portion of Danny Fields’s book, where he says that Paul’s intelligence, talent, and wealth make him the proverbial 900 pound gorilla in any room (I highly recommend that book for its unsentimental observations of Paul). So that means Paul is, what, deliberately allowing (inviting? encouraging????) these conversations to happen—over and over again? Or slyly picking *interviewers likely to “go there,” and telling them “go ahead, ask me anything” in advance? Very possible, but it still leaves us with the question of “who DOES that???” I mean it—are there other artists of his caliber who have done this on such a scale?
Okay then: for whatever reason he WANTS to get these questions. Is he just a glutton for punishment (he did say he was “heavily into S&M” in the recent LIPA interview, for the inevitable laugh obviously — but maybe it’s also kinda true :/ )? Or is he just attempting to preemptively ward off criticism in the way you suggest? (Like the Japanese press conference where he says “We’re not great musicians. We’re adequate.” I’ve always wondered if the other Beatles were kinda like “gee thanks for that, man,” afterward.)
If so tho….is it working? Like it’s worked on ME obviously, but on his reputation in general? I’m not sure it has. He’s still Paul The Ego Beatle in many (most?) minds. Maybe his goal is to carpet bomb the narrative so thoroughly that nobody can be a Beatles fan without having read at least one interview containing some Paul Knows The Beatles Were Better, Thank You Very Much.
Maybe it’s simpler than that? Now that he’s accepted the premise, maybe he simply finds the topic interesting! I would if I were him! Once I got over the **blow to my ego, heh. And he just genuinely digs The Beatles so much, considers them a magical phenomenon that was so much more than the sum of their parts. He’s a naturally curious guy. He likes to say he isn’t self-analytical but I suspect that’s more aspiration than reality. So when interviewers (at his behest??) are like “How can you be the same person who wrote ‘For No One’” he’s glad for the opportunity to say “I KNOW RIGHT?? Let’s unpack that a little…”
Any which way, I still think it’s one of his better qualities. Admirable, even.
*I think this is genuinely the case with Howard Stern who, interestingly, Paul keeps going back to even tho he clearly bristles at some of Stern’s questions. I think he does like a challenge.
**There’s an interesting moment in his mid-80s Aspel interview where he broaches the subject and you can see that it does cost him something to admit it. He says “You have to give your audience what they want. You can’t just play your own stuff, or they won’t come.” Blink and you’ll miss it; it’s definitely a micro expression moment. He doesn’t really want to say it, he doesn’t want it to be true. But he says it anyway. Which I can’t help but dig.
@Annie, great comment.
I think John and George hated, and would not have tolerated discussing, the fact that the bulk of their best work was done ’63-’71.
I think you’re right, but for different reasons.
I think John’s self-identity was firmly as a commercial artist in the form of music, and since he was still creating, he hated the idea of being past his artistic prime. He certainly resented the psychological drag created by competing with his younger self and old band, but hadn’t yet really embraced the fact that commercial success, or even the approval of others, isn’t the measure of a piece of work. He tried to say this, but I don’t think he believed it at 40. Telling John he peaked at 26 was saying, “It’s all downhill from here.”
George is more complex. I don’t think George primarily thought of himself as a Beatle, or even as a musician. I think he thought of those things as circumstances largely obscuring his true self, which he was trying to discover and express. So saying to George that he peaked at 26 was saying, “I think you are this thing that you are not, and will force you to remain that thing.”
Paul’s attitude is much different than either of those guys’. He’s a craftsman, not Picasso; and he hasn’t required a great spiritual quest to find meaning.
I do not think Paul is calculating about his public image as much as instinctual. Because of his role in the alcoholic family matrix, he knows how he wants to be perceived, and knows what is most likely to achieve that result. This is not being Mr. Showbiz or “the world’s greatest PR man” any more than a bird sitting on its eggs is being Ms. Nurturing or “the world’s greatest mother.” It is a behavior, learned young, which has become second nature. So pretending that “Fuh You” is as good, deep, meaningful or lasting as “Here, There, and Everywhere” doesn’t help anyone. It would diminish Paul, just as Lennon’s eternally claiming that “this current album is the best thing I’ve ever done” diminished him as an artist. It makes him appear to be an idiot savant, a mere channel, unable to tell good from bad.
Paul may never have even articulated this strategy; I believe such stuff now comes to him as second nature.
I agree with those in the “both/and” camp. That is,I see truth and value in the original hot take, and truth and value in a later perspective.
I think of friends I’ve seen go through terrible breakups or divorces. During and right after the break, the story is understandably that everything about the relationship was awful pretty much all the time. At least in part, that’s because breaking up is difficult and most of us need to remind ourselves why we’re doing it. So a heroes and villains/good vs. evil story helps.
Those same friends ten or fifteen years down the road typically have a different view of those relationships. It’s not that they were dissembling before, or that there was no reality to the original version: it’s that emotional distance and the perspective of years have opened up the story. For at least a lot of people, it gets harder to believe in an all-or-nothing, which-side-are-you-on narrative as we get older. We see that life is more complicated than that, and if we’re lucky, we learn to be wary of our own hot takes. It becomes possible to admit that even relationships that ended in painful ways had some positive elements and good times.
So I tend to see this version of “Let It Be” as sitting beside the other, rather as two slightly different images of the same scene combine to create a 3-D picture when looking through an old Viewmaster. (Dating myself here!)
I also don’t see John and George as pure myth busters. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on the site, John in particular seems to have built a different myth for himself as he left the Beatles. The main thing I see is four men who were still pretty young, and still caught up in the kind of black-and-white thinking and reacting that is more common when people are young. Amplified, of course, by fame on an unimaginable level.
Well said Nancy, and totally agree.
I had a Viewmaster too, and loved it!
Merry Christmas to all Beatle peeps!!
I’d agree with this, except…these aren’t home movies. They are a narrative, paid for and approved by a zillion-dollar company, designed to do what a zillion-dollar company does: make money.
The original sour take and this current sweet one should not be viewed as equal; there is a sour take, which was created and released at/near the time of the events, and now, fully fifty years later, when two of the main subjects are dead and cannot add their opinions, we’re getting a recut that (if the preview is any guide) is basically Moptops.
Now, I freakin’ LOVE Moptops. I LOVE A Hard Day’s Night. I would, if I could, LIVE in A Hard Day’s Night. But a recut of some notoriously bad sessions, sessions that we’ve had hours of audio on for fifty years, sessions that the principals themselves said were shitty, sessions that are cultural shorthand for a group breaking up–a recut of that, which makes it seem not so bad or kinda fun or whatever–I will enjoy it with the rest of you, but I’ll be wary. Because there’s a HUGE commercial motive for offering the fans this version.
Beatle fans desperately want “their boys” to be happy. But “their boys” weren’t always happy, and often it was because of the fans. So visions of the experience that reassure us, the fans, that they, The Beatles, are OK and having fun and it’s a weird life but we wouldn’t have it any other way — whether that’s AHDN, or the townhouse section of Help! or now this new cut of LIB — those visions are really seductive. They are, apart from the music, what The Beatles are selling.
Because here’s the problem: the day after Peter Jackson’s movie comes out, IT will be considered the definitive version of that time, not the documentary that was created, AT THE DIRECTION OF THE BEATLES, in 1969. It will be accepted wholeheartedly into canon and people on here will use it as “evidence” for whatever they want to prove, without any acknowledgment that 1) it’s a commercial product, and 2) is likely to be less authentic than the original product.
When you think about this movie, ask yourself one question: What if Peter Jackson had gone into the footage, and found a bunch of even more dreadful stuff? What would Apple have told him to do? And, given the obvious answer to that question, how do you know he didn’t find all that awful stuff? How would you, as a fan, ever know?
I’m not discounting the money, or the vested interest in creating a more palatable version of the sessions. But I really don’t buy the “bloodbath” narrative either. That version also serves a myth-making purpose, in my opinion.
I suppose I don’t think we’ve ever had a fully accurate version of the whole Beatles picture, and I doubt that we ever will. I see these two versions of the LIB footage as two parts of a large, complicated mosaic.
That’s entirely reasonable. I will be fascinated to talk further with you about it, when the doc is out!
Just a couple more thoughts and questions!
One, isn’t what Peter Jackson saw and is working with the exact same stuff that’s apparently been available on bootleg forever? So there’s nothing absolutely earth-shattering and dreadful that hasn’t already been known, is there? Or did he get actual unseen footage?
And I guess I didn’t know enough about the edit and release of Let It Be the movie and to what extent the Beatles and MLH were involved/responsible. Is there a good source on that I could seek out to learn more? I do remember reading anecdotes about John being upset after the fact that MLH changed the movie from the last version he saw, removing some of the JohnandYoko content, and John was also ticked off at (at the same time as apparently crying at; how very John Lennon of him) all the Paul close-ups.
I agree that George and John went out of their way to trash the Beatles for their own reasons; it’s interesting, like Nancy described, how they tended to back off a little on the hate the further they got from it. And sure, after a year like 2020, the incentive to create a feel-good movie is probably astronomical. 🙂 I wouldn’t mind some interestingly edited sharper moments, though. At least we can know that Peter Jackson has experience with drama.
@Kristy, it’s usual that there is the complete trove of material held in vaults, and then what’s bootlegged is some large or small portion of that. There’s a great book called “Bootleg” which is the best breakdown of the business that I know of. How does it get out? Smuggled out by disgruntled employees? What’s the quality? Pristine, to awful. How complete is it? You can’t really know that until the entire vault is open to scholars.
We can hope that, for example, Mark Lewisohn is seeing all the data there is–but there’s no proving that. And also? Mark L’s going to defend his brand as Official Beatles Guy, so anything that comes out that he didn’t see, he’s going to likely downplay. (No shame in that.)
But the bottomest of bottom lines is that we don’t know what’s out there, can’t know what’s out there, and likely will never see/hear it all. I mean, there’s a tape out there somewhere where John and Yoko catalog all their sexual experiences. I bet that would settle some endless debates! My hope is that at some point in my lifetime, the partners will have decided that there’s really no more money to be made, and so all the vaults will open, and all the material will be assembled in a central location, affiliated with Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard/Yale/ilk. That The Beatles changes from a commercial or even musical affair, to one of history — to be preserved like history. The debates will continue, but the removal of commerce would help.
Regarding LIB, I doubt there’s anything terrible that’s been unseen (and untalked about, for fifty years). And I’m even open to the idea that the sessions weren’t, in hindsight, the shitshow they were said to be. But Peter Jackson, like Michael Linsday-Hogg before him, is creating at the behest of, and more or less under the control of, the four partners. He’s been hired to do a job, which is to recut the LIB footage into a new project. And right there, the pressure to make it different from the original begins. If Jackson’s cut felt the same as Linsday-Hogg’s, it wouldn’t be released, and nobody would make any money. It has to be a different spin, for this to work commercially. LIB is a drag; LIB 2021 can’t be.
My most important point with all this is that we, as fans, tend to assume that the people controlling access to this material are like us, motivated by the same things we are. They aren’t. They are looking at this 1) as a commercial endeavor, and 2) as what story they want out in the world. So whatever reaches us, has gone through lots of board meetings, lots of levels of winnowing and sanitation. And the very popularity (commercial potential) of the Beatles which gives us a lot of data—what other group of that era has 56 hours of studio footage?—also means that an unvarnished, or even complete, view of the phenomenon is unlikely. Ever.
It’s not just the fans that want to believe it wasn’t all depressing. Paul too is pleased to see the “truth” revealed in the footage because he himself “believed the myth” by which he means they couldn’t stand each other at that point. I tend to believe him. Okay, it was a depressing time because the band was breaking up but I don’t think anyone would argue that. I remember this one Beatles book that ended with a couple statements which contained more wisdom than most Beatles books do in their entirety- it was a photo book, go figure. Firstly, that Paul shouldn’t be “blamed” for the breakup because it only made sense that he should be the one to announce it, as he was the one who most wanted to keep them together. And that love doesn’t make for clean breaks, but for messy fractures. So true. I don’t think that bond ever left them. And it’s not like they didn’t argue in 1964.
I loved this new footage and I’m looking forward to seeing the new film. For me this is the Let it Be film that we should have seen in 1969. I personally thought the original Let it Be was boring. Just that…just really boring. I didn’t find it sad or the epitome of a group breaking up. I didn’t think the scene where George and “bossy Paul” have their supposed big blowout fight to be particularly revealing or interesting. I didn’t know what I was watching half the time. The editing was terrible in my opinion and after seeing this other footage I can see it was quite biased in favor of the narrative they were trying to convey. It’s now obvious to me that both narratives were correct.
So I am to assume from this that John was asking to be murdered. I have the feeling that perhaps Paul thinks this way too from something he said to Howard Stern once”Then John goes and gets himself killed” that almost sounded like he was putting at least some of the blame on John.
Gretchen, I saw that clip and I’m almost positive that Paul says, “Then John goes and gets killed” not “gets himself killed.” I did find it a little ehhh… however, to me it sounded like Paul wished John had been more careful in a city like New York, had bodyguards when going out at night, etc. Just my impression.
Yes,you’re right,he did say it that way. There were a few comments on youtube about that,that it sounded a little funny;like Paul was putting the blame on John a little. But,like you said,Paul,like all of us wishes John had had bodyguards that night.
You wrote, “And I feel a weird sense of loyalty to John and George, who took really every opportunity to say, “Don’t believe it”…not to believe it. To enjoy it, sure; but not believe it.”Why do you feel that George and Johns perspectives are right, and Paul and Ringos are wrong?
As has been discussed, fame wasn’t a great experience for John and George. They were both cynical and anxious to debunk most Beatle myths. That doesn’t make them the final arbitrators of the truth. Nor should we hold their opinions higher, just because they are no longer here.
Why can’t Paul and Ringo be believed, and not merely viewed as overly optimistic?
Why can’t the truth lie somewhere in the middle?
Speaking personally? Because on the whole I don’t think Ringo is a very analytical person; I think he is primarily grateful, which is a good thing but not very helpful when you’re an outsider trying to figure out what it was like. Plus I think he, as an “economy Beatle” avoided a lot of the worse aspects of Beatledom and got a lot of the best. Ringo has always been beloved—which is also why his memories of the Beatles thing have been pretty sunny, from 1970 onwards. I’m interested in what he has to say, but what he has to say is exactly what you’d expect from someone (often wrongly) considered to be the biggest lottery winner in history.
Paul is a different story. As the product of an alcoholic family paul rings a lot of bells for me; specifically the member of the family who minimizes, papers things over, keeps everything going, puts a smile on his face and keeps going. I am probably that kind of person myself, so I know it well. Unvarnished honesty is not what you’re going to get, and as much the Paul crowd hates to hear this, he does have a show biz side that’s not his real self. So when he says “oh I don’t think those sessions were that bad”, when the others did, I give his opinion less weight.
Paul as a source has certain advantages—he was one of the main guys, he’s very bright and hyper articulate, he wasn’t into hard drugs or religion or fads that would impact his perceptions, but he also is very committed to the image of himself and his band. Plus there’s the whole psychwar between him and Yoko, which adds another layer.
I could go on ad infinitum but you get it.
Fair enough. Thanks.
As ever, your mileage may vary; your question seemed sincerely asked, so I wanted to give you a sincere answer. And there are certain things–like when Paul is talking about his process, or a beloved project like Pepper, that I trust him 100%. It’s just when you get into the intrapersonal wrangles, or stuff that’s emotionally fraught for him, or something that he’s likely to be judged for, he gets professionally sunny.
It was sincere. In general, sometimes it seems (to me), that Paul and Ringo aren’t viewed as “deep” as John and George. Like because they are more positive or happier, they are somehow shallow.
It still is interesting to me, that the two Beatles who were the biggest cheerleaders of the group, and also the most popular in the early days, are the two who are left to tend to the Beatle legacy. That actually is beneficial to us Beatle fans.
Speaking of Paul being sunny, he has his “rote stories” that never change, bless him, and they work for him and somehow he thinks they work for the world at large, too. He very rarely strays into truly “emotionally fraught” territory.
Funny, though, apparently he is doing an AMA on Reddit today and already I’ve seen people joking that they’re going to ask him how he came up with Yesterday and Let It Be, and I give good odds on him answering those things earnestly.
It reminds me of what Colin Firth’s character said in A Single Man: “It’s always the dumbest creatures that are the happiest.”
I wouldn’t go so far as that, but I would say there’s a level of emotional complexity that makes life harder. And I think John and George definitely had that.
I do not think Paul’s emotional life has been so very complicated; I think he’s a pretty lovable guy who knows what he likes, and has gotten that in abundance. When you read about Paul and women, for example, I don’t get the sense that he’s searching for his mom or some other doomed and dooming enterprise. Paul doesn’t expect stardom to do anything but make him a star. He doesn’t need to find the meaning of life. Not a simple person, but not complex to the point of personal pain, either.
@Michelle (no “reply” link), Paul plays dumb at times and he has some blind spots, but he ain’t dumb – he actually plays the long game pretty well.
Did he know Yellow Submarine would be a Beatles song equivalent of a gateway drug? And there’s that crazy comment he made during the Let It Be sessions about how in 50 years people we’ll be talking about Yoko sitting on an amp. Maybe he prefers to think there are potential new fans amongst those listening to or reading his interviews… He’s been asked about the Fabs for more than 50 years, but if he acts like everyone has heard about Yesterday, he looks arrogant – plus he only has so many stories he wants to share. (We’ve all seen interviewers ask him the same old questions even when they clearly know the answers themselves. )
I think he needs to add a little preamble – sorry if you’ve heard this one before, but in case you haven’t…
He also needs to grow a short beard. Why not take advantage of the ability to hide some of the sins of old age?
I’m sure he’d appreciate my excellent advice. ,0]
No, definitely not dumb. But probably not happy 24/8 either. I’m sure he has his demons, like the others. And we know he went through depression in ’69. Listening to his latest album, some of it is pretty dark.
Unvarnished honesty is not what you’re going to get, and as much the Paul crowd hates to hear this, he does have a show biz side that’s not his real self.
The Paul-crowd circles I walk in don’t hate to hear this at all, it’s one of their primary tenets! 🙂
When Paul talks about anything more negative than a bee sting, I just automatically assume whatever it is was worse than he’s saying. (With a few exceptions, such as thinking he would spontaneously perish after Linda’s death.) Determining how much worse is what the deerstalker and microscope are for.
It seems to me that John and George’s great struggles revolved around identity, whereas Paul’s are more about worth and value. “Who am I?” ask George and John. Paul asks “Is who I am good enough?”
The Beatles experience muddies the first question more than the second.
Or does it? After all, infinite money and vacation time presents a lot of opportunities to explore one’s identity, if one chooses to do so. And while Beatlemania would seem to be a resounding YES to Paul’s question, it also sets a high fucking bar for the rest of your life. When total adulation becomes your norm at 26, what does it mean when it subsides–or worse, turns into disapproval?
Yes Kristy,hug em’ and smack em’ is Johnny to a tee.❤️
Michael I wish there as a tape out there cataloguing all of John and Paul’s sexual experiences(if you catch my drift..sorry!) oh well..maybe some day!
Michael,it all depends on what would constitute “dreadful stuff”
It may well be that the Get Back sessions were more unhappy than happy, that the original film was more accurate than this one will be, and that these new Cute Beatle Hijinks were mostly playacting. But I also believe that the power of “fake it til you make it” should never be underestimated. Playacting might have been exactly what was needed to improve morale and relations, and make Abbey Road possible. So I’m gonna enjoy the hell outta watching it.
this is stupid but is there any way for me to get a different monster avatar?? i feel so misrepresented! haha just kidding…….unless?
Anne, the only way I know of to control your avatar is to create one at gravatar. That avatar then appears next to your name whenever you are logged in under whatever username you use to comment with, and works across the web. Otherwise, the avatars are generated automatically and I don’t think either Michael or I can change them!
I quite like mine. Suits me most days.
Anne, long-time WordPress user here. The monster is autogenerated by WordPress based on your email address. You’d have to post under a different email address to get a different monster.
Thank you for the tip, Allyn!! I like my new monster much better 🙂
Well,it’s obvious why Yoko would want a “happier”version of events. I just wonder why it would make that much difference to Paul. Why has it been so important to Paul,especially the last ten years or so,to convince people that he and John were close before he died?
It’s important to keep things in proper context, so when we say that LIB and the White Album were “miserable”, we are comparing it to earlier times. As someone else mentioned, listen to those “Think for Yourself” outtakes. Those are guys who love each other’s company, and are 100% engaged in what they’re doing. And that’s on a George song. Compare to how they received George’s offerings a few years later.
Sitting on that freezing soundstage in 1969 may well have seemed miserable compared to the highs of Rubber Soul or Pepper.
@Beasty, they’re also nearly 30. They’ve done it all, climbed every mountain and part of what they hope that’s bought them is…not having to do stuff like getting up early, driving out to a hangar-sized set, and rehearsing in public. That’s a fucking drag.
Every part of the Beatles experience is them being the first ones to do it, and everybody else learning from their mistakes. That’s why groups like The Stones were able to survive; they saw what not to do. That first part of the sessions was a logistical mistake, and I’d like to think that if Brian had been alive, it never would’ve happened. A properly gemutlich setting would’ve made all the difference.
Not only were they getting up early in the morning to rehearse on a crowded soundstage, they had just spent six months in EMI Studios together making the White Album. And it’s not like those sessions were a picnic, although in 2018 we were told that surprisingly, session tapes revealed that the sessions were fun!
It’s very 2010s that now we’re to believe the Beatles were always having fun, never really arguing, until one day they just broke up. If Paul weren’t behind it, I’d think the motives were more insidious. Because Paul’s still around and endorsing this, I agree with Michael Gerber — this is a combination of codependency and plain marketing.
Regarding the perception that Ringo and Paul have a sunnier (read less honest) take on the Get Back sessions I think it’s important to note that all 4 Beatles categorised it as dire after the fact and the fact that it’s taken 50 years to see the light of day says a lot about their thoughts on it. So given the fact that Ringo and Paul were reminded of the good times during the sessions, why wouldn’t John and George? Were all the good moments play acting? I think it’s unlikely because despite their passable efforts in AHDN and Help they weren’t professional actors and keeping up false appearances for 8 hours a day for a month straight seems a stretch to me, for a day, maybe but a month sounds unlikely.
Then there’s also the fact that John especially seemed to base his memory on his feelings at a given time rather than on what the reality was, remember he admitted that the only reason why he said the L/M songwriting partnership ended in 1962 was because he felt in 1970 that they hadn’t really written together, once he’d calmed down he could remember the reality better. With George of course he’s going to focus on him quitting the band during the sessions so it’s not a shock that he couldn’t remember the sunnier times before and after that. Also, if the sessions were all terrible why did George bother coming back? He’d written plenty of songs that later appeared on ATMP so he could’ve easily gone solo at that point but there was still something worth salvaging with the Beatles.
All in all I think LIB skewed negatively because that’s what the climate at the time of its release called for, it looks like Get Back is skewing more positively as fans have had access to bootlegs for decades now so we know that LIB wasn’t the full picture at all. With the new film we get more of the picture so that can’t be a bad thing.
I agree with Nancy. The new footage is there. It exists. So how is it any less truthful than the 1969 footage? All of it happened. It’s verified on film. I’m not trying to believe The Mop Tops or the myth or anything else. Because like every story there are two sides to this story and it’s complicated because like most people, the people involved are complicated and their relationships are/were complicated. The original footage was edited to prove an agenda. To me, the discovery of this other footage shows that there was in fact another side to the Get Back sessions that the fellows just didn’t want shown at the time because it conflicted with the message they wanted to convey… at that time. They were in their 20’s anyway…enough said lol. I seriously doubt Olivia would veto the release of this new film. I don’t think John and George would either. Why would they? Nineteen sixty nine was a long time ago. I personally think John would want this other footage released because it shows a new perspective. I can even picture him saying, “I guess the sessions weren’t that bad after all”. George probably wouldn’t care either way and after all, it’s still money. This new footage is more in keeping with the roof top footage that shows a tight band who seem to be enjoying themselves after all. I’m not negating the original footage or the original sentiment. It’s the truth. It exists. But the new footage is the truth also.
@Linda, I’m going to be rather direct here, but please understand that you have every right to feel how you feel; I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, but this conversation touches on some things that are actually important in our current media-drenched world, and growing more so. Not just applicable to the Beatles, but media literacy in general.
We are not seeing footage. We are seeing a narrative — pieces of footage, edited and arranged in a certain order to convey a certain reality. Not REALITY. A story.
So, you might say, the Beatles in 1969 wanted to present a certain story; and now, in 2020, they want to present another story. And that’s true, but they’re not equally authentic — they can’t be. Back in 1969, certain things happened which had relationships to other things; and certain things did not happen. That Linda and Yoko hugged does not mean that Linda and Yoko were friends. (Maybe they were, but that image isn’t proof.) The ’69 version will capture certain aspects, and the 2020 version other aspects, but the question is: which is more accurate to what really happened in January 1969, and which is more useful to us trying to figure out what happened?
To me, the 1969 cut is accurate because for the majority of the last 50 years, it has reflected the statements and attitudes of the people involved; certainly before Anthology, there was no significant pushback to the believe that the Twickenham sessions were awful, the band was in disarray, etc. After Anthology — and certainly after George’s death — there has been more of a sense of Paul and Ringo saying, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” but people tend to do that in middle age.
The negative cut is also useful, because it predicted what happened next: they make little music together, perform mostly separately, Lennon announces he wants to leave the group, and the group splits up acrimoniously.
So a negative cut — which was bad business in 1969, and has been ever since (there is no commercial motive for a negative cut) — is corroborated by the statements of the subjects, and is a consistent data point in a larger story. A positive cut, which will generate billions in new money, assembled 50 years after the fact, when two of the four are dead, is a pleasant experience that should be given less weight, historically.
Finally, it’s not that Peter Jackson found a bunch more footage; he’s recutting Lindsay-Hogg’s old footage. That’s a huge distinction. It’s unseen by US, not Michael Lindsay-Hogg or the Fabs. They saw it. At the time, in 1969, they thought other footage was better, more accurate, more gripping.
In 56 hours of footage of Adolf Hitler, there would be lots of times when he was being nice to his dog, and Eva, and his bodyguards. But that’s not “the story,” is it? And if I wanted to make it the story — for whatever reason — I could edit that 56 hours so that people would come away thinking, “You know, that Hitler was a nice guy. I wonder why everybody thought he was a jerk?” In that case, we certainly can watch the film, but not necessarily believe it. The cynical person always says that people like reading about dirt, and how people are terrible. I don’t think that; I think people like reading/watching stories with heroes. Hence, this new cut.
People are complicated; situations are complicated; images can be used to tell whatever story you want to tell. So we must always ask, “What is the story being told here? Who is telling it? Why are they telling us THIS story?” I will be there, first night. And I will love every minute. But if this cut replaces the original cut — as it is likely to do, because the original movie has been out of print for decades (on purpose) — that will be a distortion of the Beatles’ story for commercial profit.
About the new film replacing the old because the latter is out of print, my understanding is that it will be re-released when the new one comes out. Have they changed their minds about that? If not, I wonder if it’ll still look like crap or be treated with some technical magic of its own.
Your example about Hitler is compelling, but couldn’t it also apply to the old film? I’d like to see it again now that I’ve read Sulpy and various transcripts, but my impression is that it wasn’t terribly accurate – and that it negatively affected how the Fabs themselves remembered the experience. Memory is a very strange bird… Nancy put it better than I can in her up-thread divorce analogy.
If the sneak peek, which is virtually all good times, is representative of the new film, it will indeed be less accurate than the old film. My (probably unrealistic) hope is that Jackson went through all the footage, edited out the boring, repetitive, etc. (which many of us would love to slog through!), and pulled together a balanced narrative. IOW, I hope the sneak peek is NOT representative of the new film. Mostly I can’t wait to find out!
@Laura, I didn’t know that, but hope that it will be re-released; if the ’69 version is present and available, then my concerns are piddling — the ’20 recut can only give a fuller picture and more fun experience.
Whenever one uses Hitler the argument becomes shallow, so I’m glad that’s the way you felt! 🙂 But I do think that there is something fundamentally political about how audiences are encouraged to believe their eyes, so I wanted to use that very political example.
To me, the interesting thing isn’t chasing around some version of The Truth — thinking that there is only one, is a bit of a sorting hat in these discussions. What I am interested most by is that the ’69 film is what the four of them wanted at the time. That was the narrative that they — hyperaware of their public image, hyperadept at manipulating public opinion — wanted their fans to see. That decision, more than any one scene or excerpt, shows a profound desire to get off the merry-go-round. “Let It Be” is almost a cry for help: “Please stop making us be Beatles, it’s all too much.”
So why, by 1969, was it too much?
What was too much?
Why was Beatledom in 1969 too much for those four guys, and (for example) Stonesdom not too much for the Stones? Or Zepdom not too much for Zep?
These are questions at the very heart of this blog. We all know the joy; we all feel it, that’s why we read/write here. But what else was there? What happened to them, as people? We are at a disadvantage here because we love The Beatles so; we want the guys to feel as good as we do. By 1969, it’s clear that they weren’t, in some way, at some times, thriving as people. And in a world increasingly dominated by fame and fandom, it’s an essential study. Why I keep posting and commenting.
We need four movies, one from each point of view ala Rashoman! Seriously, I’d love that. It could be like the Showtime series, “The Affair.” Initially, I was confused because more or less the same thing would be happening, but the female lead would be wearing a different dress. Once I caught on, I thought it was an interesting approach.
I don’t think is necessarily fair to either Paul Ringo John and George to imply they could never be straight forward or honest or authentic in their words and actions. I certainly agree that they could be reactionary (John in particular was a speak first think later kind of guy) and they could/can be showman when business requires, but I don’t think I’d class them as entirely fake.
They were young men in their late twenties who got fed up with being Beatles, who were starting to get fed up with each other, who were feeling creatively restless or confined, and who were starting to move on to the next chapters in their lives that didn’t seem to include being in each other’s pockets, combined with a period of drug addiction, depression, shady managers and hanger ons, business and legal woes.
But they were also friends- best friends even- who practically lived together in Hamburg and who had gone through something massive together that no one but each other would really understand. I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe even through the turmoil of the break up period that they didn’t hate each other for every minute of every day so much so they couldn’t even joke around or enjoy each other’s company while working.
John George and Ringo still spent time together in 1970-71, by 1973-74 John and Paul were back to being friends, and John had soften some of his harsher feelings about the Beatles by the mid to late seventies. The fact that there was enough there for them to salvage a friendship and still stay in each other lives, kind of makes me think that as bad as the 68-69 period was, it wasn’t apocalyptic either.
Added thought: One thing though I tend to agree with that I haven’t commented on is I imagine a John Lennon before his death, would not have been a “sunnier cut” guy- I imagine he would have been a “show all 56 hours and let people judge for themselves” guy. What camp a John Lennon who reached 80 would think I’m not sure.
Would he have agreed to anthology? Would he have made guest appearances on stage at Paul or Ringos concerts or been a Travelling Wilbury with George? Would it have been him doing carpool karoke with James Corden? And would the Beatles still have the same legendary status and significance in 2020 without Johns death giving a James Dean, Marilyn Monroe immortal quality to the Beatles? Things I ponder.
I imagine George Harrison would have been in the “I’ll take the money from this doc and go buy myself a private island where no one can find me” camp. But even he might have lost some of his reticence and mellowed had he the chance to live to old age.
I can sort of answer the question of whether John would have agreed to the Anthology. I recall reading somewhere that he had signed an affidavit allowing for some kind of Beatles reunion in support of The Long and Winding Road, a proposed documentary which ultimately became the Anthology. Also, when did George become the mercenary Beatle? It’s been popping up quite a bit lately. I know he railed against the taxman, but they all did.
I’m more commenting on the fact that George Harrison in his later years seemed to purchase mansions/property in sort of remote private areas. For instance I’m Australian and he purchased a property on Hamilton Island a beautiful and expensive Island in the Whitsundays. I believe he also had a place in Hawaii too.
Not that I blame him after being stabbed in his London/British Home.
Harrison’s primary image was the Spiritual Beatle. I remember him scolding a particularly pungent-smelling audience during a 1970s tour: “You care more about your weed than your God!”
But in Brian’s A Cellarful of Noise he describes George as the one Beatle most preoccupied with the group’s finances. George is almost the accountant of the group, constantly asking questions about how much money is coming in and where it’s going.
I read the book in 1968 and wondered how his image changed so drastically from accountant to guru.
@Sam, that’s not so uncommon in my ramblings among the spiritual set.
The best way for me to think of George is that he was a person of great appetites: great appetite for money/comfort/luxury, great appetite for women, great appetite for God. So his relationship with the Beatles — and specifically John and Paul, whom he felt had “made it all happen to him” — was complex, because it gave him access to all the worldly pleasures he could want. Which both stoked his desire for something more, and made it that much more difficult to attain.
Here in the West, we think of gurus as all one thing, all spiritual. They are not, and in India they seem to be seen as something akin to preachers for megachurches.
He did have a house on Kauai I think, LeighAnn. Some of that was for living; but also for investment. “Buy land — they’re not making any more of it,” goes the saying.
@Michelle, in 1979, all four Beatles signed an agreement to play together in the near future as part of their lawsuit against the Broadway musical “Beatlemania.” Would this have been a half-assed purely contractual obligation as part of the long-threatened “The Long and Winding Road” movie, or would it have been a full reformation? Some days I think the former, others the latter. Anyway, it’s a tantalizing document.
You pose an interesting question though, LeighAnn. People wonder if John would be as legendary if he wasn’t murdered. Would the Beatles themselves be as legendary?
I personally think John- and to a lesser extent Georges- death gave an added element of legendary status to the Beatles. I think had John and George still lived today the Beatles would probably still be respected and admired like other ageing 60’s acts are now but not to the same extent.
But I guess it’s one of those you can’t know for sure since John and George did die.
@LeighAnn, I have a different opinion; I think John and George’s early deaths had that effect on John and George’s legacies, for sure. But the Beatles as a group were already legendary by 1980 — “the next Beatles” was so common it was a joke. In their time, and over the decades, The Beatles were orders of magnitude more culturally important than Bowie or Elton John or Queen, much less 60s groups like The Bee Gees or Cream or Hendrix or The Doors. The Beatles were everything Cream was (musically innovative and loved for that reason), everything Zep was (the biggest band of a decade), everything Bowie was (an innovator in music and film and fashion and masculinity), and everything Queen/Elton were (hitmakers), all wrapped into one band. Lennon’s murder ended the story, but that’s when we started seeing everything more clearly.
It’s impossible to know, but I think it’s defensible to say that a lot of what we now think of as “the 60s” started with, or was best summed up by, The Beatles and their music. The Sixties would’ve unfolded in basically the same way, if one removes any other group; but The Beatles, as the first, the best, the Trojan Horse…unique. Not mere pop culture. Something like Nazism, but in a good way — twelve years of a world-changing mass hallucination.
@LeighAnn, I think the big difference between The Beatles and James Dean or Marilyn Monroe is that the reputations of the latter rest on a handful of movies. Dean, for example, is “Rebel” and “Giant” and what might have been. Marilyn is fascinating as a person, but “Some Like It Hot” is the sole film of hers that really made it into the canon, and she doesn’t carry that picture; “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” or “Seven-Year Itch” is pretty slight stuff. Even by 1962 Marilyn was mostly done as a mass-cult phenomenon, and while it’s possible she could’ve matured into other roles (and I would’ve loved to see that; I think she was a brilliant comedienne), it was only after 1980 that her iconography became omnipresent.
If The Beatles had died in a plane crash in 1965, then they’d be Dean and Marilyn, IMHO.
Michelle, I supppse there’s no way of knowing, but I do think John’s murder is a big part of what has made the Beatles, as well as John, legendary. A heaviness looms when any telling of their story marches inevitably toward 1980.
Lennon’s murder is strangely fitting–inevitable?–an unbelievable ending to an unbelievable story, but since Anthology, the sweep of the entire phenomenon is more present than Lennon’s murder. It’s the sweep of the story that makes it legendary, not merely the ending of one of the members.
The first generation of fans engage with it all as nostalgia; second generation fans like myself often engage with it historically, as inspiration, or as “what might have been”; but third generation people have their own relationship. People didn’t buy Beatles Rockband because John Lennon got murdered. And as we see regularly on this site, as many contemporary fans are Paul-centered as John-. That wasn’t true in 1982, but a lot of years have passed since Lennon died.
I ran across this interview with Paul at NME.
“He also admitted that he originally questioned why Jackson wished to make the film – which draws from material originally captured by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg for his 1970 documentary of the album.
“I said to him [Jackson] when he was going to trawl through all the footage – like about 56 hours or something – I said, ‘Oh God, it’s going to be boring’ because my memory of the [original 1970] film was that it was a very sad time, and it was a little bit downbeat, the film,” he admitted.”
This suggests to me that Jackson was not commissioned to do this project by The Beatles Inc. Paul was concerned at first because he recalls it not being a happy time.
I don’t know Jackson’s original intention, but unless Paul is lying (doubt it), it was not an idea that originated with him or Ringo.
@Tasmin, that’s interesting! Thank you. I always love comments with data in them.
Knowing nothing more than than average person on the street, I would guess that this project was cooked up at the same time as the rest of the 50th anniversary stuff; after Neil’s death and the hiring of Jeffrey Jones at Apple (Jones had specific experience in repackaging IIRC). How could this asset, this 56 hours of footage, be repackaged? And then after “They Shall Not Grow Old” — which I LOVED btw — Peter Jackson was an obvious choice.
So the idea begins as “we need to do something with Let It Be, just as we did with Pepper, White, and Abbey Road” — and the partners agree of course. Then the specifics emerge as Jackson emerges, not simply as a top-rank director but one with specific experience in this realm. A natural choice.
Having in mind that Peter Jackson is a movie maker – a movie maker of great fantasies- I will see this film with my popcorn, expecting something like LOTR: an adaptation of an original work, epic, dramatic, romantic, comic and fantastic… all in one. That’s what I expect, and it’s ok, instead of a Lennon-McCartney song we’ll get a McCartney-Starkey-Ono-Arias-Jackson film. Anyway part of The Beatles appeal it’s that their story it’s like a movie itself, with plot holes and some plot twists,so, we will never know all the truth (and we must not).
P. S. I think this sneak peek unleashed a beast.
@Alejandra, I agree that The Beatles story, with its unknowables, is entirely gripping.
What’s the beast you think it has unleashed?
I”m referring to this comments section.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Just Mike talking more goofy shit. 🙂
More than goofy it sounds terrifying … Oh, what a poem! by the way.
This is my hope as well, Alejandra. It would make sense to use only the cheery bits for the sneak peak (not even a proper trailer as of yet). I don’t WANT the movie to shy away from the dark and tragic bits — you’ve got Peter Jackson, use him!! Give me George & Paul arguing in delicious HQ! I also hope he cleans up and uses lots of the secret lunchroom tapes. I want John talking about having to smother his ego, and Paul saying how stupid it will be in 50 years when people say “they broke up because Yoko sat on an amp” in glorious surround sound! And John’s “I want more Beatles.” And Paul’s earnest but ever so tired-sounding defenses of Yoko’s presence against people being all “C’mon, you’re the designated John-wrangler, now go wrangle him!!” and Paul being like “LISTEN. I am the John wrangler for a REASON, and I am telling you that in this instance he is unwrangleable. If I try to WRANGLE, he will LEAVE.” Give me all of it, good bad and ugly — except actually not ugly because it will be so crisp and colorful and pretty!
The one thing that really can’t be addressed I suppose is the drugs. There’s not going to be a documentary style voiceover. Which is a shame, since drugs (specifically J&Y’s heroin habit) permeated and affected everything.
Geez, when did you guys come back? I ask because years ago, I found that it was impossible to get to Dullblog anymore, the link just timed out – and after a few months I just gave up, figuring you’d gone belly-up or lost interest in posting, or lost your domain or something.
Anyroad, welcome back from the dead.
As for the content of this post: Nothing is ever only one thing. (Not meant to imply you are arguing otherwise.) The White Album sessions were supposed to be a real bummer, and the recording of “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da” in particular was, it is claimed, particularly fraught because Paul wanted to (and did) lavish so much time on it. And we’re told the opening piano chord is by a bored and frustrated John saying, essentially, “HERE’s your freaking opening, now let’s get on with it, already!” And I guess it’s possible to read those little “Ho-ho’s” and “Hee-hees” and “sing” and “ring” echoes as passive-aggressive sabotage by John, and maybe that is all true.
But to MY ear, it has always sounded as though they are having *fun* during that recording. Also during “Birthday” and “Everybody’s Got Something…”. During these bad-vibe, bummer sessions, the Beatles also managed to *sound* as though they were having fun at times. I’m sure that John, overall, probably hated “Ob-la-di” – saw it as Paul’s “granny music” – but in the actual recording, he sounds playful. Maybe I just want to hear it that way. And I am in NO WAY arguing that the sessions overall were fun.
But I am okay with Jackson’s stringing together some of the happier moments from the GB sessions. I won’t be fooled by that into thinking they were actually a real blast for the boys. But to see John jumping around and goofing with his mates, and all of them seeming to have moments of genuine fun…that, too, is true. It may not be the main story, but it is an interesting subplot that I want to see. It couldn’t have been ALL bad, right?
Welcome back to you, @Glaven! The old theme was fighting with updates of WordPress, and after 12 years all the fixes and patches needed to be cleared away. Plus, I was growing really tired of the endless “John and Paul were lovers” roundelay, and the deterioration of our comments into “well I just think X resented Y” psychobabble, instead of the marginally better-supported psychobabble of the earlier HD era. 🙂
Indeed nothing is ever one thing. For example, I’ve heard that “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” anecdote beginning with Lennon taking one of his first big jolts of H, then stumbling back into the studio and saying something like, “I’m higher than any of you fuckers have ever been, I’m higher than any of you fuckers will ever be! HERE’s the opening!”
And so the great thing about the Beatles, to me, is the mix of light and dark in that, of camaraderie and conflict, pleasure in being Beatles and being filled-to-the-backteeth about it. That’s what keeps me coming back to the topic, and them as people. In that case, heroin broke the group through; eventually, it would destroy it.
So GB/LIB is a mix, has to be a mix. But “Beatles-as-product” buffs away the rough edges of the story with ever-increasing strength, and that’s not right. Those people did that thing in reality; it’s not a movie or the run of a comic book or some similar batch of IP to be massaged into its most marketable form. As Harrison said, they paid a price for what we got. The dark aspects of GB/LIB are probably the clearest example of that in the historical record, and that has always made a certain type of fan uncomfortable. We should be uncomfortable. We owe them.
I don’t think John hated Obladi Oblada – he’s been described as playing it on his guitar in India. Maybe he came to dislike it due to Paul testing his bandmates’ patience while recording it.
Yeah, I don’t believe John ever called Obladi granny music. I think he liked its reggae style. People seem to confuse it with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer which is the first (only?) instance where he used that description.
I’m with you in the White Album giving vibes that they were having fun when listening to the music that surprised me from what the history books tell me the sessions were like.
If you listen to the Esher Demos from the 50th reissue, in particular the Back in the USSR they all sound like they are in high spirits. Ringo has said on many occasions how Yer Blues was one of his favourites because of how much fun they had recording it.
I particularly liked the outtakes for Julia I think on Anthology 3 where you hear John get excited at how well he played the guitar and Paul muffled in the back ground complimenting him a lot on how great he sounded.
Also “You know my name (Look up the number)” wasn’t that recorded during the Let it Be sessions? And that’s essentially Paul and John joking and pissing around with each other on the studio dime.
@LeighAnn, the Beatles could sound “fun”–they were gifted performers, putting across a feeling to you, regardless of how they felt themselves — and even have fun within lousy sessions. Or vice-versa. Post-Pepper, all their recording sessions are long affairs, for one thing; they contain fun and fighting and everything in between.
When we’re talking about White or Get Back, don’t be surprised by clips of them goofing around, or dancing, or singing with smiles. That happened. But the Standard Narrative is Standard because it reflected the general opinion of the participants. We know that there was some tension during Revolver (Paul left!) but they were generally good; George and Ringo were bored during Pepper, but they were generally good; MMT was them finishing bits and bobs after a hugely productive year, maybe their best year, but everybody shellshocked over Brian; White was artistically rich but tension-filled; Get Back was them tired and going through the motions; and Abbey Road was everybody pulling it together for one last great album, with a carve-up to keep the bickering down.
So the Esher demos can sound fun, and have been fun. The night of making USSR can an enjoyable experience; same with Yer Blues. But that doesn’t change what the White sessions were; remember Ringo (!) actually quit the group (!) in August. Paul has referred to White as “the tension album.” What I’m saying is: listen to what the Beatles said about stuff. Most of the time, there’s no need to look for clues in the songs.
Here’s a good example of how to untangle stuff. As you said, “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” sounds like the product of a loose, enjoyable time–to my ear, it sounds a lot like the Christmas albums from 1966 and 1967. And lo and behold, it was the product of precisely that period, mid-1967. From Wikipedia:
“All four Beatles participated in the first three recording sessions on 17 May, 7 and 8 June 1967. A saxophone part, played by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, was recorded on 8 June.”
So, instead of overturning Standard Narrative, it supports it. But it was released in 1970! What’s the story about that?
“The recording of the song was left unfinished and untouched until 30 April 1969 when, with the help of Mal Evans, Lennon and McCartney laid down all the vocal tracks and added additional sound effects. George Harrison and Ringo Starr did not participate in this last session. Nick Webb, second engineer on the 30 April session described it this way: “John and Paul weren’t always getting along that well at this time, but for this song they went out on the studio floor and sang together around one microphone. Even at this time I was thinking ‘What are they doing with this old four-track tape, recording these funny bits onto this quaint song?’ But it was a fun track to do.”
So: like, “Ballad of John and Yoko,” completely supports the story we already knew.
Also, don’t forget that the Esher demoes were made before any official recording had begun. How the Beatles all felt about each other, and being Beatles, after India but before White Album sessions began, is not very well documented. I’m not sure if Yoko was at Esher, either. So it could have been the last gasp of the way things were, or an uneasy transition period, or something different altogether.
It’s natural that we want to believe the sessions were fun, but that’s believing in a fairy-tale version of Beatledom that’s so unmoored from the historical record that it’s even more inaccurate than the myth. That’s a dangerous direction to be headed in at a cultural level: the sanitized, but narratively succinct version of the Beatles’ story, the version that suffocated all four and in some way killed two of them, is *no longer sanitized enough* for people. So now we are being told not to believe our eyes and ears.
Michael, that’s a good point about needing to beware of a “sanitized” version of the Beatles story. At the same time, I think it’s important to reserve judgment on this Peter Jackson film until we have the finished version. I’m doubtful about how much can be extrapolated from this “sneak peek,” but we’ll see when the film is released.
“That’s a dangerous direction to be headed in at a cultural level: the sanitized, but narratively succinct version of the Beatles’ story.”
So agree Michael B!
We are at a dangerous time in our society now, with Q-Anon, and all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories about.
Facts are facts, no matter how much we may dislike them.
That includes Beatle facts as well.
Great comment @Michael. To me, Esher demos sound more like the Feb 68 “Bulldog”/”Madonna” sessions than White proper. A transition.
The thing that I keep coming back to in this conversation is: sanitization happens because it’s easiest to sell. Fans consuming Beatle product need to, after a certain number of years of thoughtless enjoyment, realize that they are a market consuming a product meant to appeal to them. Truth ain’t got nothing to do with it, and the danger of that — the force that millions of people desiring something imparts — is why John and George were so seemingly bitter, and often seemed angry at Paul especially for encouraging Showbiz-as-Usual. Showbiz-as-Usual, magnified to Beatles-scale, gets people killed.
I bought the Let It Be single when it came out, and You Know My Name was the B-side.
I have no evidence, but here’s my theory: They needed something for the flip side of Let It Be. But because egos were being ruffled on a daily basis by that point, nobody wanted John or George to be on the “other side” of Paul’s masterpiece. And they didn’t want another Paul vocal on the other side. So they decided to use a novelty track where they can all be heard goofing around. So no hard feelings and no one’s feelings are ruffled.
Yeah, it seemed like “what’s in the can?” filler to me. As much as I like the song. It’s worlds away from 1969/70.
Haha I love that unwrangleable quote. What about Paul seeing links between his and John’s songs: “Don’t Let Me Down… Oh Darling, I’ll never let you down… It’s like a story.” John (jokingly): “It’s like you and me are lovers.”
@Michelle, I’m going to start asking for citations on any and all McLennon quotes. Nancy and I are bored with it.
The audio clip of that exchange can be heard starting at 1:15:24 of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0mpbX4SaY0
Excellent, thank you. From now on, provide links when you get into McLennon territory. We want to keep it from being PID-like.
I believe it’s from the LIB audio tapes: https://thecoleopterawithana.tumblr.com/post/183054384760/amoralto-january-24th-1969-after-john-and-paul
Excellent, thank you. From now on, provide links when you get into McLennon territory. We want to keep it from being PID-like.
@Michelle re: “unwrangleable quote”
Oops, in case it wasn’t clear, that wasn’t an actual quote! That was me running the innumerable “look theyre in love we cant just tell them to stop being together 24/7” quotes thru my Paul-to-English translator (patent pending) 😉
@Michelle – I read the comment in a book. I think it was Peter Doggett’s, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’.
I’m not really interested in ‘McLennon’, whatever that word means. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s likely that John and Paul experimented with sex like they experimented with everything else (I think it’s a lot more likely than not for many reasons that aren’t relevant to this comment); I just don’t think it’s that much of a big deal. So what?
The comment, to me, means, ‘I made a mistake and I want to go home’.
Unfortunately for John, he didn’t have a home to go back to. Cynthia had moved on and married someone else, and he could hardly go back to Mimi. He was obviously incapable of looking after himself, and his family were the Beatles in any case. His best hope was that Paul would forgive him for his appalling behaviour and that things could go back to the way they were before Yoko arrived on the scene.
Yoko, of course, was a bit more astute. She had devoted five years to encouraging John to do things that ensured he could never go home. She knew that his relationship with Paul could never go back to the way it was before her – that Paul would not be John’s caretaker ever again. All she needed to do was prove it to John, which I think she set out to do.
‘If John had wanted a reunion, wouldn’t there have been a reunion?’
No, because there couldn’t be a reunion without Paul. It was Paul who had the power to make a reunion happen, not John.
@Elizbeth, I was with you until the last paragraph. With both the tentative plans to record together in New Orleans in 1975, and his visits to the Dakota, guitar over shoulder, in 1976, doesn’t it seem like Paul could’ve gone either way and it was John’s willingness/availability (read: Yoko) that was the determiner?
@Michael Gerber (reply
I tend to agree this aspect of Paul is less calculated than it is organically compelled by his inner…..stuff. The Pleaser role makes sense, and I’ve also seen some compelling arguments on Tumblr lately that he may have ADHD. See here for info on rejecting-sensitive dysphoria, a common manifestation. https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-and-adhd/ . Sounds apt, no? And we already KNOW he can’t sit still for 2 seconds.
I like Laura’s idea of having four movies, one from the viewpoint of each Beatle.
It reminds me of the novel Flaubert’s Parrot, about a man who tries to get to the bottom of Flaubert when he discovers different stuffed parrots in museums being called Flaubert’s one parrot:
@Annie said, “Like the Japanese press conference where [Paul ] says ‘We’re not great musicians. We’re adequate.’ I’ve always wondered if the other Beatles were kinda like ‘gee thanks for that, man,’ afterward.”
That was so strange, right? I think he must have been reacting to something that had been said or that he’d read before the press conference. He’s an odd duck and very contrary.
As to whether the LIB sessions were as bad as the band members recalled them, the film crew described the sessions as lively and fun. Did they actually give Michael Lyndsey-Hogg a clue as to what they wanted, or did they just shrug and say it’ll do because they didn’t want to deal with it? And even though the Fabs remembered the white album sessions as tense, don’t the outtakes tell a more fleshed-out story? Not to mention they all went to Paul’s house to watch “The Girl Can’t Help It.”
“I think he must have been reacting to something that had been said or that he’d read before the press conference. He’s an odd duck and very contrary”
That’s what makes most sense, that there’d been some sort of “Beatles Think They’re World’s Greatest Musicians!” article that he was reacting to. But out of context at a press conference it just came off weird, heh.
He IS extremely, if very selectively, contrary! It’s such an odd contrast to his usual eager-to-please mindset. Just read something recently about how in school, as soon as he started getting good marks in a subject, he’d start slacking off. I think Mike relayed this phenomenon regarding Latin class specifically, how Jim was so proud of Paul’s aptitude and how it boded well for qualifying for university, etc. Paul immediately started failing exams. Contrarianism? Self sabotage? Not wanting to raise expectations? Acting out unspoken resentments? Performance anxiety?
Off topic, but I liked this:
If this is true, there will be no erasing of history. Fans who prefer unhappy Beatles will still have that version.
John’s murder was a tragedy. The attack on George in his own house was a tragedy, and may have contributed to his early death. This is what upset me then, and upsets me today. But the Beatles bickering during the Let It Be sessions, or being bored with each other? I don’t feel like that’s worthy of getting so worked up over. (Hope and Crosby didn’t always get along while shooting the Road movies. I’m not going to get mad at the studio for pretending they were best buddies.)
Is there a conspiracy today to re-write history and “betray” us fans? A conspiracy between Apple Corp and the surviving Happy Beatles? Maybe. But no one has ordered the destruction of Lindsay-Hogg’s opus.
And speaking of Lindsay-Hogg, I’ve known many film buffs. People who were in love, in absolute fanatical love with various directors… everyone from Hitchcock to Frederick Wiseman. I have my own heroes, mostly creators of the old ’30s screwball comedies. But I’ve never met a Lindsay-Hogg fan. I’ve never seen his name discussed outside of Beatle discussions like this. He’s certainly a successful guy, but… do any of you admire his work? It reminds me of the fuss people made over Steve Allen, the songwriter. “He wrote a thousand songs!” (I can’t name more than one.)
Four wealthy but bored rock musicians pissy because they were tired of each other and had to get up early and rehearse, and so they snapped at each other. And that was captured on film! But then they got it together and recorded more music, and then the band split up. I don’t see it as the epic catastrophe of the century. I don’t feel I owe John anything, so I don’t need to hang onto his version of events, when we now know the double fantasy he created with his wife for our benefit. And George was the resentful baby brother who should have been given more tracks on the albums. I agree with him, but I try to put it in perspective. There’s humor in it. They would have worked out their problems. A murderer, an attempted murderer and cancer prevented it. That’s what I get pissed about.
Were the sessions miserable? Sure. Were they happy, too? Maybe. Maybe the Beatles were pretending to have fun for the cameras, and we’re all being …betrayed… by Peter Jackson and Apple and Paul and Ringo. Maybe they’re all being… phonies! Those liars weren’t really enjoying themselves!
At what point do we all start sounding like Holden Caulfield here?
Well said as always @Sam — for the record, I’m not bothered by any of it. The footage is theirs and they will do with it what they please. I do think that it’s a useful backdrop for a conversation about fandom, memory, myth-making and marketing. The fan-driven discourse of the internet has colonized the world, and given us a politics that’s more like two neckbeards arguing over the Marvel Cinematic Universe than a way to solve problems (often lethal problems).
It’s precisely because nothing relating to the Beatles really matters now (if it ever did), that I think it’s a useful way to speak about these issues.
Peter Jackson’s new cut doesn’t matter, except inasmuch that it sensitizes Beatle fans, who all know the reputation of the earlier film, to think aobut how footage can be used to tell a story. And when 30% of the country is in thrall to a preposterous story — a cult of personality without rival in US history — it says to me that lots of people have never, not once realized how images and editing create a story. People “believe what they see,” especially if it’s what they want to believe.
BTW, did you ever hear the rumor that Michael Lindsay-Hogg was Orson Welles’ illegitimate son?
I never knew the Lindsay-Hogg/Orson Welles connection until I read it here. I don’t know if it’s true. If Lindsay-Hogg believes it, I guess it is.
I’m not sure if Showbiz-as-Usual is what gets people killed. My impression (again, this is just my opinion) is that people (Beatles) get killed when fans want too much from their idols. It isn’t the Myth that kills celebrities, it’s the obsessive tearing down of the Myth. I enjoy mythbusting as much as anyone here.
But there’s always going to be the el lobo solo who takes it too far; who comes to see ordinary showbiz PR as a personal affront (“Because it’s not the truth, man! Why do they keep lying to me?”) and so I worry that if I bitch too much about Mythmaking, I’m adopting the logic of the assassin.
There’s humor in the Beatles being irritable with each other while the pretentious director they hired eagerly captures it on film. It’s even funnier that fifty years later the corporation they created hires someone to re-edit the footage to showcase the rare times they weren’t snarling. Imagine what Peter Sellers and the Goons could have done with a premise like that!
“el lobo solo” — I like that, @Sam!
There’s a great interview with Paul at NPR about McCartney 111. (Will you guys be doing a review?)
Anyway, Paul talks about a tree that George gave him.
“George was very into horticulture, a really good gardener. So he gave me a tree as a present: It’s a big fir tree, and it’s by my gate. As I was leaving my house this morning, I get out of the car, close the gate and look up at the tree and say, “Hi, George.” There he is, growing strongly. And you know, that takes me back to the time when I hitchhiked with him!”
No matter the fights and lawsuits, the 4 Beatles were forever bonded.
Yes, I would like to hear people’s opinions of MCIII. I enjoy it quite a bit. I like when he gets introspective (others liken it to Chaos which is in a similar vein, but to me MCIII is more fun). His old man’s voice on Kiss of Venus is so endearing. It’s great that he’s still making music.
Here’s the link for the interview:
Some thoughtful comments I’ve been reading. Perhaps George and John would have good reason to be bitter if they’d belonged to the generation of men before them who returned from a horrific and devastating war. Seriously psychologically damaged men (likely with physical injuries of their own) who’d seen their best mate’s face blown off in front of them and another one drowning in his own blood crying for his mother. Try paying for your nervous system with that, George, or your ‘shocking’ childhood, John. It makes whining about what an ex-band mate did or didn’t do to them seem unbelievably trite, and, with reference to We Shall Not Grow Old, I would be curious as to what Peter Jackson really feels about this, and why he may or may not pitch this film in a particular way.
I’m not invalidating that all four men suffered serious depression and anxiety at various stages; it was just as real for them as it is for anyone else. But like @Sam said, the Beatles breaking up should not have been the end of the world for fans and it should not have been the end of the world for the Beatles either. Remember at the beginning when they didn’t know when the bubble would burst? A few months? Two years? They got ten.
Entitlement and fan worship got to them in the end. The wheel still turns. Fans are emotionally invested to such an extent they can’t let go, and then complain why their idols turn out the way they do. I don’t even know if Paul and Ringo themselves can separate myth from reality. But I doubt if either of them have any real motive to sanitize this era. Age is part of it, but I think, particularly with Paul, it is lasting and unresolved grief over John’s murder and a deep-seated emotional need to remember things were better than they actually were.
I don’t think it is just sentimentality on Paul’s part. I believe he also is working on his legacy. That is why he is hammering the “we really were friends and equals” trope into people’s heads whenever given half a chance these days – but he also truly believes this ( after a period of doubts in the past), and I think he is right. For some people it is rewriting history, for him it is correcting the false narrative. As long as the old film will also be available and the old books by Norman, Wenner etc. can still be read and used as a source for people to form their opinion, I do not really see a problem. Hunter Davies book was outdated before it was even published…. Shout! was supposed to be the definitive biography…
Since then updated version were issued and masses of new books were written, new i fo has become available and perspectives changed.
I don’t know why everybody else should be allowed to add new findings or different angles to the story, but not the people who lived it.
In the case of Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s movie I also get the impression that it turned out as it did because he himself did not have much fun doing it. He witnessed endless discussions and right up to the end did not know if it would culminate in any sort of live gig. It did in the end, but just going up to the roof was not what he had in mind…. I suppose the whole experience was not at all what he had envisioned when he got the job, so that may have influenced the way he cut his material as well
Change of topic- I just read the 2020 revise of the Rolling stone mag 500 greatest albums and it’s crazy how much the Beatles went from dominating the first list to being pushed back that it seems they were lucky to have made the top ten.
Sgt Peppers went from number 1 to like 26!
I do think it’s could that RS are embracing more current artists and expanding there genres and including more female artists as well (something they’ve been criticised for overlooking) but looking at how far pushed back some of the classic albums of legacy acts like Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Who, Jimmi Hendrix etc were on the list I imagine rock purists would have lots of feelings.
Very interesting LeighAnn. Thanks.
I went and checked out the top 100. Interesting that Abbey Road is now higher on the list than Pepper. But if you talk to younger fans, Abbey Road is their favorite Beatle album by far.
I think the list was updated due to Jann Wenner no longer being editor. The new crew at Rolling Stone is probably trying to be more current, and attract a younger crowd.
Abbey Road sounds modern in a way that the rest of the catalog does not. It’s accessible to modern ears. Why is an interesting question.
@Michael G. Solid state mixing desk and more experience with recording on eight track, for one thing. The solid state desk doesn’t sound as warm as the tube ones they previously used, but it does sound more modern. And they started placing mikes and mixing the tracks to approximate the sound of a band playing in real life, something they hadn’t done on the White Album (when they also had 8 tracks). However, mono mixes of earlier songs sound more modern than their stereo counterparts because the drums and bass aren’t squished off to one side.
Personally, I like the way the Beatles sound pre-Abbey Road, and pre-White, better. It’s the epitome of the record as art, rather than as a kind of trick of the ear. But these days I’m in the minority
I also prefer the pre-White sound, @Michael. Abbey Road especially sounds overproduced to me. It’s like The Beatles’ “Dark Side of the Moon” or “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
And the only Paul solo album on the list is Ram. Band on the Run fell off the list completely, despite being his most critically acclaimed and successful album. When did it fall so far out of favor with everyone, including his own fans? If it’s too polished, so is Abbey Road. The revisionism regarding how Ram was regarded in 1971 (a few scathing reviews, but mixed overall – generally on the mark as a decent but flawed album) to its “indie” worship is over the top IMO.
That is interesting about BOTR falling off. The critical tide seems to have turned against it, for reasons that are somewhat obscure to me.
I actually think “Ram” is still underrated! But I’ve accepted that this is just my own taste speaking. I’ll sit in the corner with Jayson Greene, whose Pitchfork review of the remastered version captures the album’s stellar qualities better than I can.
I think for me the thing about BOTR — with the exception of “Jet” — is that when I want to listen to music from that period, something that sounds like that record, I will listen to another artist. Todd Rundgren, maybe, or Bowie or Elton. I have absolutely nothing against BOTR, but…no affection for it, either. If I want to listen to solo McCartney, I adore RAM and like McCartney II; I’ll put on Back to the Egg, even, or (most likely) I’ll put on a greatest hits album. I prefer “Live and Let Die” to anything on BOTR. For the guy who practically invented the LP as unified sonic experience, McCartney’s mostly a singles artist after RAM.
The ironic thing about all solo Beatles is that they can easily be summed up by greatest hits compilations, whereas each Beatles album — even the first couple — are much more than their hits. And the high points of the group, like White or Pepper — there aren’t even any hits on them.
@Nancy Carr, I think it depends on which age group you are looking at. I found that Ram is a huge favorite amongst the younger crowd with a leaning towards Indie music. Wild Life is definitely making a comeback as well. BOTR is still very popular and many still cite it as McCartney´s best solo record. And I found out that there are indeed people who first were Wings fans as kids in the 70s and only later found out that he was an ex-Beatle. I used to think that was just a joke, but no…. I actually like that fact! But I am also probably in a tiny minority, because I actually prefer V&M.
A good way to find out which songs or periods are cool with the kids is to have a look at which songs are being covered by young bands – and older bands as well. Oh, and people in South America or Russia or wherever, that is interesting as well, I think. I was looking for something else entirely on youtube just recently, but I stumbled upon a number of quite good versions that way – sometimes they made me appreciate the original better, you can often hear that even behind the throwaway stuff there is a lot of really good songwriting hidden…
There were a lot of kids in the ’70s who were into the Bay City Rollers before they grew up and started listening to Beatles music. It’s whatever is current. It only seems remarkable in the case of Paul because no band can top the Beatles for historical significance. If that weren’t a fact, there would be no humor in, “Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?” I’m sure that today, some four decades after Wings’ last album, if there is any band that people become aware of as children, it’s the Beatles. I myself was a kid in the ’70s and knew who the Beatles were long before I heard of Wings. I knew that Paul (and John) released solo music. But that’s all it was to me, solo music by the Beatles. Wings being an actual band simply flew over my head (pun intended). Maybe it’s because my parents had Beatles records in the house and didn’t own anything by Wings, and they only really took us to classical music concerts as kids. You can’t overlook the fact that Paul toured with Wings longer and in bigger venues that he did with the Beatles. So credit to him because I’m sure his longtime fans (Beatles fans) took their kids along to those concerts, hence the little Wings fans. They were a great live band, for sure (judging from concert footage). Since the late ’80s he’s performed mostly Beatles music live.
Sorry spelling error
*I do think it’s good RS are embracing more contemporary artists
@Michael, I’m sorry if this comment pops up in the wrong place – I’m afraid I’m struggling a bit to work out how to reply to a reply!
I think your comment that Paul had made a promise to himself to NEVER go back to being John’s caretaker was spot on. In addition, Paul was in a very good place in 1974 – Band on the Run was a huge commercial and critical success and he was planning his American tour. He was looking forwards, as he always seems to do.
On the other hand, John was looking backwards. He wanted to undo his mistakes and go back to the way things were before Yoko – to the early days even if his choice of music is a clue.
When John told Elliot Mintz that he wanted the Beatles to reform, I very much doubt that what he had in mind was a guest spot on a Wings album. But that is all that was on offer from Paul, who had ostensibly moved on.
Underlying all that of course was the fact that John still needed a caretaker. If Paul had agreed to reform the Beatles – to go back to how things had been before Yoko, as John wanted – he would also have been forced to break his promise to himself. By only agreeing to work with John on a non-exclusive basis, Paul was sending him a very clear message that they could not go backwards.
Yoko, of course, knew that Paul would stand firm, and she sent him on his ‘errand’ to hammer the point home that there was no way back for John – it was either her being the one person John relied on or he was on his own.
I think John held out for a bit to see whether Paul would budge, but once the papers to dissolve the Beatles were signed, it was game over as far as going backwards was concerned. That’s why he went back to Yoko, I think: not because she allowed him to come home, but because he had sunk the boat called Paul so had to get back on the boat called Yoko.
I don’t think Paul would ever have agreed to reform the Beatles. Cynthia made a point in her book that once John cut a person off, that was it, he didn’t look backwards. But actually, I think that’s Paul. He’s a person who always seems to be moving forwards, and he doesn’t forgive anyone who betrays him – he just cuts them out of his life. He was obviously wounded very deeply by the break up of the Beatles, and he didn’t even reconcile with George until the late 90’s, not really. So yes, I think that Paul was the one with the power to reform the Beatles, but that he wouldn’t do it and that this is the thing that hurt John the most.
This is thoughtful and well-argued — and I absolutely buy the central premise that John needed a caretaker, saw Paul as a caretaker, wanted Paul’s caretaking; and Paul, post-breakup and slagging, wasn’t interested. So why was PAUL heading over to the Dakota to hang with John? Play music, smoke pot, etc? I can readily believe that John spun this into a story of him telling Paul to get lost; but none of it happens without Paul making the overture, coming over, etc.
I think John returned to Yoko because of “the smoking cure,” full stop. No other reason.
Do you really think so, Michael, about John coming back only because of the smoking cure? Could you elaborate on why you think that? Because to me it seemed like he was sick of taking care of himself and just wanted his Mother back, and that he already knew about the shady stuff she would pull on him but followed along.
From what I can tell, someone was employing some pretty classic behavior modification techniques. John’s attitude changed very drastically in a very short time, and there’s no clear explanation for that.
The only person who I’ve seen express the “cure smoking” theory of why John went back to Yoko is May Pang who Ive always felt has needed to make known that she was more important in Johns story then the former assistant turned girlfriend he rebounded with after his wife threw him out. So John didn’t leave her because he wanted to go back to his wife and work things out, he went back because Yoko said she could cure smoking.
And as far as I’m aware John didn’t quit smoking. John was smoking up until he died if judging by some of the photos of him with cigarettes from the late 70s and 1980 and the double fantasy sessions. So if he went back to her because she promised she could cure smoking it didn’t work and didn’t cause him to then leave her after he wasn’t cured.
And where does that then fit with Elton and Paul saying that they played a role in reuniting or pushing John and Yoko back together.
There is an interview with Paul that took place during his 1989 tour. It’s on YouTube. The interviewer mentioned how John said he never missed the Beatles. Paul said, “He missed the Beatles. I know for a fact he missed ’em.” I’m sure he was right, but it seemed important to Paul that John missed it as much as he did.
Even if it was a relief in some ways, it had to be painful for Paul to lose the closeness he’d had with John for so many years. Wanting to get together doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to be in a band together. He may have wanted to reform their friendship and maybe work together within limits while Yoko looked after John. Unfortunately, there was no up side in that scenario for Yoko.
@Laura – Yes, that’s how I see it.
I read something a couple of years ago where Paul was quoted as saying that John had phoned him many times in the 70’s, begging him to reform the Beatles. I looked for the quote when I wrote the comment above yesterday, but I couldn’t find it. I know I read it though.
It makes complete sense to me that Paul would have been the one to say no to reforming the Beatles. John was a mess, so the responsibility would have been on Paul to make it happen, and then everyone (including John) would have blamed him if had gone wrong.
Not only that – Paul was married with 3 kids. It wouldn’t have been possible for him to juggle his responsibilities as a husband and father with looking after John, and keeping John productive enough for the band to function.
Which isn’t to say that Paul didn’t want to be John’s friend, or even that he didn’t want to work with John again. He just didn’t want to be responsible for John, or for a band in which he and John were ‘equal partners’, but where it was up to him to make it work. Who can blame him?
“Which isn’t to say that Paul didn’t want to be John’s friend, or even that he didn’t want to work with John again. He just didn’t want to be responsible for John, or for a band in which he and John were ‘equal partners’”
Well said, Elizabeth. Things for both men were different after the break up — marriage and (in Paul’s case) newly being a father were huge. It’s a cliche that “you can’t go home again,” but there’s a lot of reality in that statement. People change, priorities change, and at some point relationships have to be recreated or left behind. Just trying to go backwards never really works.
Paul had a family to raise. What about John? Was his desire to raise Sean, to the point that he put his music career on hold, count for nothing? Being in a band was the last thing he wanted. Paul needed a band thoughout the ’70s, not him. In the 1984 Playboy interview, when Paul stepped out of the room, Linda said: “Paul was desperate to write with John again. And John was desperate to write. Paul could have helped him.” Sometimes the official story is the correct one. I know that you prefer to see John as a grovelling, high-maintenance guy who couldn’t stand on his own two feet (unlike Paul who rushed into marriage with a raving madwoman after Linda’s death because the thought of being alone was so scary to him), but if you can’t find the quote where Paul says that it’s all conjecture. And to top it off, John would blame Paul for… what? Something that’s a figment of your imagination? The fan-generated persecution complex when it comes to Paul – with Klein (still) and Lewisohn (of all people) has no bounds. Paul is doing all right for himself. As for the Lennon Estate, aka as the Evil Empire around here, Yoko apparently isn’t doing very well and Sean has already started to handle John’s business. Does that pass everyone’s approval?
Is Yoko not in good health, @Michelle? I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve sent kind thoughts to her during COVID — all these people, they’re getting up there.
Michelle, speaking for myself, I was thinking mostly of the pre-1975 interactions between Lennon and McCartney, before Sean was born. I don’t have any doubt at all that for both men, family changed them and made it harder to “go back” to what was.
For what it’s worth, I think Klein really behaved like a villain, and that the person in the Beatles story that he hurt most was quite likely Lennon. Lennon wrote “Steel and Glass” about Klein and came to take a very dim view of Klein’s ethics, and I find the tendency in some quarters to gloss over Klein’s behaviors troubling. What Klein did with The Rolling Stones and the whole “Nanker Phelge” business was dirty for sure. As for the Beatles break up, Klein didn’t create the conditions that precipitated it, but he seems to have served as a potent accelerant.
Lewisohn I see as caught between the proverbial rock and hard place: he needs access, and getting access from just about ANY uber-famous and powerful person is complicated.
I have respect for all the Beatles’ children — none of them seem to be destructive, and many, very much including Sean and Julian, are doing things that positively contribute to the world. I think that speaks well of all four members of the band, since those kids were definitely in a high-risk group for flaming out in one way or another.
Allen Klein was a bad dude. He’s a type, one I’m familiar with, and wherever they go, they ruin shit.
Everything he did well, others could do (Stigwood for example). Klein wanted to “Nanker Phelge” The Beatles’ catalog, that’s why he said, “I’ve got ’em!” not “Maybe I’ll call ’em and see if they need any help.”
Epstein turned a bunch of amateurs in leather into the biggest group there ever was; that’s a talent. Klein turned The Beatles into four people who hated each other so much you literally COULD NOT PAY THEM ENOUGH to make music together. If Lewisohn doesn’t call Klein a villain simply for that, he’s too naive to be writing this story. All Klein had to do was keep the band together. That was his only job. Getting them £1 per LP means bupkes if they’re making solo records selling 500,000 units instead of Beatle records selling 20,000,000.
Nancy and Michael (re. “Allen Klein was a bad dude”) – couldn’t agree more.
We may also want to consider that under Klein’s “guidance”, the Beatles failed to take over Nems as desired and lost all control of Northern Songs.
In fact, it appears to have been confirmed on 19 September 1969, the day before John announced that he was quitting the group, that Northern Songs finally and completely fell to ATV.
I’ve read it said that this may have been the final straw for John, but if so, why didn’t he “divorce” from Klein as well?
Because John didn’t want to handle his own business affairs, and had no brother-in-law to turn to. 🙂
After losing control of Northern Songs, John and Paul both sold their shares. Although it would free up cash, it seems short-sighted to me. Does anyone understand the ins and outs of such things?
About AKOM, they’ve recorded three new episodes and I think one will be out in a couple of weeks. (There’s decades worth of Jean Jacketry.)
@Michelle – Sean wasn’t born when John went back to Yoko, so John’s decision had nothing to do with him.
Sadly, I do think that John was a ‘grovelling, high maintenance guy’. I don’t think he started out that way, but it’s what drugs turned him into.
I really doubt whether you want to know what my feelings are about Yoko. I do have a tendency not to sugar coat things, so it’s probably best that I don’t say because I WOULD cause offence. However, I will say this: one of the truest things that Paul wrote was in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make. Paul has brought joy to millions of people, and when he dies, the whole world will grieve. I doubt whether many tears will be shed for Yoko, and that’s on her for the way she’s lived her life and how she’s treated others.
I won’t be shedding any tears for sure.
If you look at Johns Instagram account they recently posted photos and postcards of John and Yoko in Egypt in 1979 and it reminded me of something. There’s this perception in the internet and by some questionable biographers that John was this miserable barely functioning human- when he wasn’t contradictorily an abusive pyscho- locked away in his Dakota tower by the Evil Queen Yoko.
But John and Yoko travelled a lot during the 70s. He was seen out and about in NY with Sean and Yoko, he and Yoko went to awards shows together, they socialised with people like Bowie and Elton and the other ex Beatles and their partners when they were in town.
And even during the Lost Weekend/LA period he may have been wild and drunk but he still socialised, was creatively productive and reconnected with Julian.
My point being that John seemed to live his life just as much as Paul or any of the other Beatles did post break up and I don’t doubt after so many miscarriages, call me naive, that he did genuinely want to be a hands on dad once he finally had Sean. So I don’t know that I necessarily buy the idea that John was a grovelling desperate mess without Paul.
I’m sure he wasn’t perfectly happy, or perfectly clean and that he didn’t have his depressive troubled periods and there were a lot of abandonment and codependency issues there. I just don’t think he was as infantile and incapable of being autonomous as he’s made out to be.
And a semi relevant semi off topic point I sometimes feel there is some sexism towards the fact that Yoko as a woman took charge of building up the Lennon brand and making millions for herself, her husband while he was alive and her children, that probably wouldn’t have been there if John had a male manager doing the same. John himself never seemed to like the business side of the music business.
Yoko is not my cup of tea but I don’t think it’s sinister that she is good at business and that she is protective of her husbands brand and legacy- regardless of how authentic that brand or legacy is and what John’s thoughts would have been on the capitalist commercial nature of it- nor do I think it’s sinister that she and John got back together. I mean John grabbed a woman and had loud sex with her while Yoko had to listen in the other room all because he was wasted and up set about Nixon’s re-election. And yet that Yoko is made out to be bad guy for luring John back into her evil web is crazy to me.
My thoughts exactly. I can’t fathom why people, Beatles fans no less, want to believe the worst when it comes to John. I know what pictures you’re talking about. I previously had no idea he and Yoko went to Egypt. He looked healthy and happy, as he did in all his travel pics. A hermit that travelled the world – John must have been the first of its kind.
@Michelle, it’s not “Beatles fans wanting to believe the worst when it comes to John.” It’s trying to reconcile two pretty opposite things: the JohnandYoko story, and what we saw then and have learned since.
Nobody reading this blog would want John Lennon to have had a bad time; but nor do we want to believe in a bunch of lies.
For example: You can’t look at pictures of John in Egypt and just leave it there. According to several sources (unfriendly, probably, but still), the Lennons were in Egypt to purchase looted antiquities. Here’s how we know they were successful.
Here’s one account of their Egypt trip. In addition to the statue Albert Goldman, IIRC, talks about a mummy that was wrecked.
So we have generations now of fans going, “Ooh, Yoko’s so good at BUSINESS” which — news flash, all rich people were buying art, RE and stuff in the late 70s to hedge against inflation — but not reading far enough or critically enough to realize “What she was doing precisely was at best graymarket.” Do fans really think you could, in 1977, just fly over to Egypt and buy 3200-year-old statues? And why that precise material? Why not Magrittes or another house or four? The Egyptian material fits into Yoko’s occult activities which, once again, you can’t simply ignore unless all you want is a comforting story. I honestly can’t tell what happened at this point; but as much as I know that Goldman and Giuliano are unreliable in one direction, I know Yoko is, in the other.
For me, my perspective on John and Yoko changed when I got married. If my partner had physically deteriorated like John clearly did between 1976-80, I would insist that he be seeing doctors — proper Western doctors (as well as alternative people). If he were holed up in his bedroom watching TV, unable to write songs, I’d insist that he be seeing a therapist. If he’d dropped all his old friends and old career and walked around the neighborhood all day…do you see what I’m getting at here? Believing that John was OK, and John and Yoko were a great love affair, requires that you define them as totally different than any other couple, and make them into something more than human. They weren’t, and they aren’t. And their efforts to make people do that are, in themselves, troubling.
@LeighAnn, I think all a person can do is read ALL the sources and make a determination, trying to keep one’s biases in mind.
Mutual friends have said to me that Yoko is very nice; and I certainly would HOPE she is very nice; but I think it’s clear that fan antipathy towards her is not based in racism or sexism. Olivia Harrison is in the exact same situation–non-American second wife with a musician son trying to protect George’s legacy, and the Beatles’–and nobody rails against her.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard Olivia Harrison speak. She seems to be one of those women who are seen and not heard. Who rails against women like that? Plus, she’s not emblematic of the Beatles breakup like Yoko is. No comparison.
Is that in the chapter of Goldman’s book that has the endearing title, “The Lennons buy a Lenoir”? Yeah, that’s not racist at all. :/
Anyway, you make good points about couples and how the same standards should apply to everyone. It’s not that I only want to think comforting thoughts. There seems to be a underlying reason for all the focus on negative aspects of John’s life, especially as it relates specifically to Beatles fans. They believe, or want to believe, that John couldn’t survive without and was dependant on Paul. As good as they were for each other, this sounds like fantasy to me. Judging from the fact that Paul sunk into depression and hard drinking following the split – he says it was because he was out of a job, yeah right; he knew he could carry on songwriting and recording – and if it’s true that “Oh! Darling” was directed at John as many seem to believe, the reverse would be more plausible (at least in Paul’s mind).
@Michelle, whether or not Goldman was racist (I think he was, both casually so and more deeply), he’s also the guy who did the most interviews and other digging. So we have to filter him, but we can’t ignore him, either. Just like we can’t ignore this article from Esquire in 1970. We have to read past the framing to see if there’s any data there, and this is particularly important in Yoko’s case, because she’s 1) controlled a lot of information and 2) never written an autobiography, or agreed to a biography.
@Michelle – I don’t agree that the focus on the negative aspects of John’s life has anything to do with the belief that John was dependant on Paul.
People want to know what happened to John. They want the truth, not the pack of lies they have been sold by Yoko and her minions.
As for Lewisohn, someone who sets out to write the ‘definitive’ story should only be interested in the truth, whatever that is.
One day, someone may be brave enough to write the definitive story about what happened to John (if they have the stomach for it), but it obviously won’t be Lewisohn.
I don’t think it would matter if Yoko starts to disown Lewisohn at this stage, if anything it would only bolster his image as the sole teller of the true story. George and as a result the Harrison estate fell out with him and Paul has voiced his displeasure in general with outsiders defining the narrative repeatedly, but this only resulted in even more admiration for Lewisohn, because people see it as proof that he is incorruptible ( oh , and of course McCartney is constantly rewritting and whitewashing the story anyway…). The level of worship this guy gets is frightening. And if he continues to write at the same pace, neither Yoko, Paul or Ringo will be around any more to see volume 3 being published, so who is going to challenge his version?
Jesse, one thing that could limit the influence of Lewisohn is the reality that he’s not a good prose stylist. I’ve said before that Philip Norman, for all his faults, knows how to write in a compelling way, and that this is one reason Shout! became so influential. I won’t be surprised if most of Lewisohn’s influence comes from people quoting short passages, rather than from people reading the books themselves.
I was initially excited to read Lewisohn’s first volume, but it turned into a real slog. He seems to struggle with editing, in two senses: 1) He can’t seem to see when he needs to leave less-essential information out, or cut the treatment of it way back, and 2) He’s not a good writer at the sentence/paragraph level.
I say this as a professional editor, by the way.
As another professional editor, I concur on all points.
Remember what brought Mark Lewisohn to prominence: researching and cataloguing. His work is wonderful in that regard, essential. But the Beatles’ story is vast and has been oft-told, so you really need superb fluidity at all levels — grand theme, structure, chapter breaks, even down to paragraphs. My favorite big Beatles book, from a prose style point of view, is Mark Hertsgaard’s, because he’s a superb writer.
If I could wave a wand, I would install Lewisohn at Yale, make him the Paul Mellon Professor of Contemporary British History, and tell him to go research (I think Oxbridge is too snooty to discuss the Beatles for another 50 years, you’d need the prestige to get the access, and there is a strain of Anglophilia at Yale). Then he would do what he’s the best at, which is the digging and compiling, and from that trove other writers more skilled at longform historical narrative could create narratives.
But we must remember: it is precisely Lewisohn’s flaws that make him acceptable to the four parties. Norman is full of questionable opinions, but it’s those very opinions that make him a great writer of his type. Grossman even more so.
I think the definitive Beatles book won’t be Lewisohn’s, but the book AFTER Lewisohn, and after all four are dead.
I agree with Michael and Nancy regarding Lewisohn’s writing. I will usually get through a book in a few days but it took me years to get through his book. The over use of lengthy footnotes was a real problem for me. I have no problem with him citing sources, but including paragraphs in the footnotes that he could have either left out or put in the main story was very annoying and interrupted the flow of the book. I bought it when it came out, couldn’t really get into and put it down, it took me until the pandemic this past March to finally pull it out again.
Yoko, as the martyr’s widow, and the woman wronged by fans, occupies a different place in the firmament from Paul or George.
Ask Philip Norman; he’d spent decades burnishing John as the sole genius, and slagging Paul as a try-hard social climber—exactly the Yoko line—and the moment his book comes out, she pulls support and it’s DOA.
The very same people who worship Mark Lewisohn (and there’s plenty to admire), are the people who believe Yoko is the keeper of the flame.
Why does Yoko seem to hold all the cards? It’s too bad that before George died, the three remaining Beatles didn’t come together and just be totally honest about Johns drug use, and Yokos part in that. They seemed to have skirted around the issue in Anthology.
Do you think it was money? Meaning, without Yokos cooperation, Anthology couldn’t have been made?
I’m wondering if because they all loved John, and wanted to honor his memory, they just acquiesced.
No Yoko, no rights to John’s image and voice. At the very least a huge legal battle before it all even began. Probably a pro-Yoko competing Anthology, with Wenner’s backing. And so forth.
What sort of person would claim to know how someone who had suffered a devastating loss was feeling? Who talks like that about anyone?
@Elizabeth: I remember well my dismay at reading that statement by Lewisohn. For those who don’t know, he said in an interview that when he watched Paul’s face in the “it’s a drag” footage the day after John’s death, he could tell Paul was annoyed by and jealous of all the good press John was getting. For being murdered. (Lewisohn could tell this because he’s such an “astute watcher” of McCartney and has special insight into him somehow, apparently.) Well, my jaw dropped and it rudely dashed my hopes for his objectivity and evenhandedness. In a way it’s good he said it and tipped his hand, so we know where he’s coming from.
As a normal adult, there’s a lot of reasons Paul might’ve been annoyed at that moment, not least of which could be, “My friend just got shot and STILL you’re hounding me? When will I ever get some privacy?”
To assign it to Paul being jealous of a dead man seems…fannish.
He could have called in sick. Just kidding. He was in shock and the only way he knows how to cope is to bury himself in work. And he never shows his feelings. But he didn’t look himself in that video – chewing gum, giving short answers, eyelashes glued together. He said recently that he’s still in denial about John’s death. Really? To me, not having anything to say on the day of a loved one’s sudden death shows a person’s devastation more than delivering a eulogy.
It seems like an assessment Lewisohn made in retrospect, because Paul is often criticized for competing with John’s ghost, complaining about revisionism in the wake of John’s death, etc.
@Annie M – It’s an appalling comment and Lewisohn should have known better than to make it. Not just as a journalist, but as a human being. We can all think what we like, but sometimes we need to keep our thoughts to ourselves. This was one of those times.
That Lewisohn can’t see that makes me question his maturity and/or his emotional intelligence. It’s also obvious that he HATES Paul McCartney, as you wouldn’t say that about someone you didn’t hate. It’s about as appropriate as questioning whether the photograph of Yoko and David Geffen at the hospital on the night John was killed was staged. You might think it to yourself, but it would be extremely inappropriate to make a public statement announcing it – because you are just that clever.
Awful, just awful.
You might think it to yourself, but it would be extremely inappropriate to make a public statement announcing it
Especially when you do so under the mantle of “ultimate professional Beatle researcher and biographer.” And it’s not like it was a conversational aside; he spent a couple paragraphs building up to the point, so it was something he REALLY wanted to say. For some reason. Weird. He certainly seems to think of Paul as a largely mercenary and calculating person.
Was this in an interview or a book that Lewinsohn said that?
@Michelle, Lewisohn saying he could tell Paul was annoyed by and jealous of all the good press John was getting when he made the “drag” comment isn’t from one of his books.
Lewisohn has done a number of interviews and presentations since Tune In, but unfortunately, I don’t just when he said that. Other newish comments I’ve heard or heard about include that people may think Klein was the hero of the breakup after reading book two, that John and Yoko didn’t have a serious heroin addiction, and that unlike Lennon-Ono marriage, McCartney’s was nothing special and was due to pregnancy.
Yikes, he’s said all those things? That’s an astoundingly…fan-like level of bias, and also totally at odds with the “just the facts, ma’am” persona that he works so ardently to adopt. What I find most disappointing about those statements isn’t just that they’re completely subjective, it’s that they’re stupid. How can one have a “not-serious” heroin addiction? And what do we make of the many many primary source accounts, ranging from Keith Richards to those who worked for him (to a guy who grew up near my dad and happened to meet John in 1972), who say that Lennon was on methadone or receiving acupuncture treatments specifically to avoid another heroin relapse? That sounds like it wasn’t non-serious, right? How is Lewisohn evaluating his sources?
Likewise, it’s perplexing not only to read that the McCartney relationship “wasn’t special” but also that it should be compared negatively to Johnandyoko. Taken together, these two remarks suggest: either one needs to be massively obsequious to get Yoko’s approval to do anything, or Lewisohn lacks the common sense, skepticism, and emotional intelligence necessary to be a decent biographer. For what it’s worth, although I remember it painting the Beatles’ world with more detail, Tune In is one of the only Beatle books I never felt a desire to poke through again after I finished it.
You FINISHED it? 🙂
“one needs to be massively obsequious to get Yoko’s approval to do anything”
Always remember this. The plan has been to gather all the information, hide it behind lawyers, and control the story.
I think Michael B deserves a Hey Dullblog merit badge for making it all the way through that book — especially if it was the “extended” edition.
I skimmed the “condensed” version.
I don’t know about Yoko, but John said he snorted heroin, he never injected it. When you snort the drug, it takes longer to absorb into the blood stream and is less addictive. It’s still harmful, but less risky and not your typical “junkie” MO.
While I don’t agree with what Lewisohn said about the “it’s a drag” comment, saying one unflattering thing about someone doesn’t make a person biased. If you read the link that Laura provided, Lewisohn ripped Philip Norman’s “Shout” because of its obvious bias against Paul, saying it’s stupid to portray him as a lightweight.
@Michelle says: “saying one unflattering thing about someone doesn’t make a person biased”
It can if the unflattering thing is bad and weird and hurtful enough, which I think this is. Ymmv.
Thinking Paul isn’t a lightweight artist is an extremely low bar. It doesn’t mean he’s clear eyed and unbiased.
@Michelle – Lewisohn’s comment wasn’t unflattering, it was wicked.
He’s basically saying that Paul’s a psychopath – which he would have to be to be jealous of the attention that John got by being murdered.
Someone who makes a public comment like that about another human being needs to have a lot more to back it up than a gut feeling as a ‘McCartney watcher’.
Lewisohn reminds me of Yoko, actually. Arrogant and completely lacking in self-awareness, with too little emotional intelligence to know what is and isn’t appropriate.
I found a link with excepts of the Lewisohn interview re “it’s a drag”:
FWIW, I think Paul WAS irritated / angry, but that’s well within the range of natural reactions for anyone being asked to comment on a very recent and significant loss.
Thank you. Paul remarked how “glib” all the pundits were, when he couldn’t find anything to say. Understandable. I got the impression he was more annoyed at them than what they were saying about John, because they hardly knew him.
I think it’s just Lewisohn’s John fanboy side coming on strong. I think those tendencies are present if somewhat under control in Tune In, but it’ll be VERY unfortunate if he’s less able to control them for future volumes.
@Laura: you could well be right, and any “benefit” to Yoko might simply be byproduct. Narratives that ostensibly benefit (a certain version of) John automatically benefit Yoko as well. So maybe it’s just garden variety “my personal and highly subjective opinions are, actually, objective and correct” egotism on Lewisohn’s part rather than some kind of conscious quid pro quo.
But then I keep remembering him saying “I was told that bad things might happen” if he publicly played more than that tiny sliver of the 4:4:4:2 tape. Because, wtf. I should see if there is audio of that exchange. Maybe it was a joke. ??
@Michelle (reply feature isn’t working) – re: this comment “I don’t know about Yoko, but John said he snorted heroin, he never injected it. When you snort the drug, it takes longer to absorb into the blood stream and is less addictive. It’s still harmful, but less risky and not your typical “junkie” MO.”
This is a good example of where someone with Lewisohn’s stated goal needs to think more like a historian and less like a fan. In this case, if Lewisohn’s relying on that statement from John, or similar statements from Yoko, that’s a problem. Addicts in general are notoriously dishonest about their addictions; a celebrity addict would likely be even more so. A celebrity addict who’s also a former Beatle/Beatle spouse who’s also (a) trying to get a green card or (b) trying to sell a househusband image or (c) trying to sell their late husband’s Saint John image has even more incentive to be dishonest. If the assumption is, well, Lennon wouldn’t lie or keep anything from us — he was so honest, that’s disqualifying, too. The idea that Lennon shared everything with the public, or was honest with the public, is *part of* the Lennon myth; being a good historian means interrogating when that was true, when it was not true, and why.
Next, is it scientifically accurate that snorting is less addictive than injecting over prolonged use? I don’t know, but it sounds suspiciously like the sort of thing addicts might say to minimize their addictions – “I’m a social drinker,” “I only drink wine,” “I only drink after 6 pm.”
And, finally, is it accurate? Is there independent corroboration that John’s telling the truth? Why’s he whispering “Shoot me” at the beginning of “Come Together”? Why does he say that “shooting is exercise” during that interview he gave during the Get Back sessions? What were other rich rock stars in London doing in 1968-69? Considering the sources, what do unsavory characters who’ve weighed in have to say about this?
I don’t know why Lewisohn said that. If it’s because he’s read those quotes from John and Yoko, then he’s unequipped to write a history of the Beatles. If it’s because he’s uncovered other information – great, show us, *and explain why it invalidates or explains away contrary evidence that’s out there.* If it’s because he needs to say that in order to get Yoko’s cooperation, then doesn’t that raise significant concerns about the accuracy of his work?
Lewisohn’s exact words on the subject, from I believe the Fab Four Podcast interview.
Mark: “Heroin was a drug they were always aware of and steered cleared of… When they saw John get into heroin they got disappointed and a bit concerned. But John was always on his own journey, and they knew John was someone who wants to know everything, try everything… now you call John a heroin addict, I don’t believe he was ever addicted. I don’t see the signs of an addict there. I’m not sure how many times he took it. He ended up writing the song that suggests he was addicted, cold turkey… it’s so revealing because no one knew he was taking heroin, and he writes a heroin addiction withdrawal song and puts it out as a record. I don’t know whether at that point he had gone through that experience, but he probably had to know it, but that suggests a stronger addiction that there is any indication of.”
Q: “He had a relapse after cold turkey into heroin, again?”
Mark: “The suggestion is that George said that Yoko got John into heroin, and they didn’t like her for that, but I don’t think she was an addict either. There is no sign either of them was. They functioned at such a high degree. John is so creative, ok he’s not writing many songs at the start of 1969, but most of January he’s fine he seems completely clean. He’s not strung out on heroin the whole month like I’ve read. The bed-in, he’s so switched on, he’s definitely not doing any heroin in Amsterdam, maybe very late at night when the rooms finally cleared and the two of them are alone and they might have a smoke…”
“He’s so lucid, he’s so in top of it, never drops the ball… I think he has a heroin problem again in NY in 71’ too, there’s a story of them going cold turkey in a car being driven across America, put themselves in car and told the driver to drive, they’d go through their hell in the back of the car and when they arrive at their destination they’re over… which must have been a trip…
“He’s far too creative and lucid… doesn’t exhibit any signs of being strung out.”
“He ended up writing the song that suggests he was addicted, ‘Cold Turkey'”
So Lewisohn is saying that “Cold Turkey” suggests John was addicted? Wow. That is some Maytag washer level spin.
I think what Lewisohn is saying about addiction in general here is really dangerous. It’s perfectly possible for someone to be a “high-functioning” addict, often for quite some time. I just watched the new John Belushi documentary, which I highly recommend, and Belushi’s trajectory makes it perfectly clear that someone can be creative, lucid, and addicted — at least for awhile. Implying that anyone with an addiction is going to fall apart immediately is deeply ignorant and irresponsible.
Yeah, Nancy, I feel like in that discussion Lewisohn says they were too lucid to be addicts. I think a lot of people know that addicts aren’t all laying in needle-strewn hovels; I had a roommate who was severely addicted to opioids and I had no clue for MONTHS. She had a career and everything, but would just disappear into her room some weekends because she was “sick.” When I finally figured it out and drove her to the methadone clinic, it wasn’t because she wasn’t perfectly lucid and capable of faking it. Argh. Sorry, that particular discussion of Lewisohn’s really gets my goat. John and Yoko had a likely not insignificant number of enablers around them to take care of the dirty work of addiction.
Kristy, you highlight why what Lewisohn seems to be implying in that statement is so dangerous: if we carry around the idea that someone who is experiencing addiction must be unable to function, we’re going to misunderstand addiction and not recognize when people need help. I think we all need to understand that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and that it can manifest in different ways.
A lot of people in the grip of addiction can hold it together for quite some time. They may even have periods where they abstain from the substance to which they are addicted. But it’s rare for someone to recover completely without help of some kind, whether from counseling, rehab, a support group, or some combination.
I feel strongly about this because I’m very close to a few people who are in recovery, and this idea that someone doesn’t “really” have an addiction issue unless they are visibly falling apart can prevent people from getting help.
“I can handle it” kills people. And the idea that John took heroin, but only snorted it; then tied himself to a chair, kicked, wrote a song about it, and went on his merry way is part of the Invulnerable Rock God mythology that culls talent from every generation.
Great point Nancy.
“Maytag level spin”
Nice one, @Nancy! XD
Lewisohn is obviously lying in this interview. He knows, because it’s common knowledge and everyone knows, that John was a zonked-out junkie. You don’t have to rely on first-hand accounts from people who were there to know this (even though there are plenty of them); video evidence like the below is proof enough:
So why is Lewisohn lying? There are a few possibilities that I can think of:
1. He is sucking up to the Lennon estate to gain access to information (this is the most likely).
2. He has been paid by the Lennon estate to lie (this is also a strong possibility).
3. As the ‘definitive’ author, he has ultimate knowledge and wants everyone to know this. Hence, he wants everyone to think that what they believe to be true is wrong because he and only he knows the truth.
It’s a shame because it devalues his whole project. If he’s willing to lie about this, how do we know that everything else he has written isn’t one big lie also?
And the amount of time it is taking him to write the second book is just ridiculous. If I was his publisher, I would be suing him at this point. Why is he wasting his time giving interviews for a book he has not yet written? Where is the book?
It all seems very dodgy to me.
So if Lewisohn says something stupid that makes Paul look good or is positive to Paul, does that means he’s lying for Paul’s benefit? Or Paul paid him?
Same with George or Ringo?
Could it not be that Lewisohn just lacks the experience or knowledge about addiction and said something stupid and not again the whole Yoko has paid him off to lie?
I’d like to know how Yoko, apart from black magic, attained more clout than Paul?
Yoko can take or leave The Beatles; Paul cannot. There is the greater leverage.
@Leigh Ann – it depends what he said really.
If he said something like, ‘Paul wrote everything the Beatles ever recorded and only gave John half the credit because he agreed to this when he was 15,’ then yes, I would assume Paul was paying him to lie.
His statement about John is a lot more preposterous than that so he must have some motive to lie.
I’ve no idea how much Lewisohn knows about addiction, but he’s already announced that he’s the world’s foremost authority on John Lennon and the Beatles, so I don’t think he has any excuse really.
Actually no, that’s not more preposterous. I don’t think there is anything sinister about Lewisohn having the impression that John wasn’t strung out on heroin. He can’t be alone in thinking that John didn’t act like your typical junkie. If there is such a thing as a functioning junkie, he’s guilty of ignorance and that’s all. Talk about conspiracy theories.
If Lewisohn is indeed that ignorant about the ways in which addiction can show up, in my opinion he has no business promoting himself as producing a “definitive” three-volume work that must address addiction if it is to have any basis in reality. I include McCartney’s dependence on pot (and possibly cocaine) and Starr’s on alcohol.
It’s the fact that Lewisohn is NOT alone in doubting that “functional junkies” exist that makes what he is saying so dangerous. As long as people believe that everyone with an addiction must be falling visibly apart from the jump, we’re not going to see a fair number of people who need help with addiction — and people who would benefit from help aren’t as likely to seek it. The mythology that anyone misusing [insert substance] immediately plunges unmistakably into the abyss is “Reefer Madness” style misinformation.
hear hear! can we pin this at the top of every thread please? 🙂
For me, any one or two of these anomalous opinions of Lewisohn’s would mean nothing on their own. But unfortunately a pattern is beginning to emerge that I can’t help but find suspicious. If you wanted to make a JohnandYoko’s Top Ten PR Problems List, you’d put Heroin, Klein, and Is This What Healthy Love Looks Like? Really? at or near the top. Lo and behold, these 3 areas are exactly where Lewisohn’s judgment seems. . . questionable. (For WHATEVER reason! Perhaps it’s as innocent as being too fannish and eager to rehabilitate John’s image, nothing to do with Yoko directly at all. But it undermines his credibility nonetheless.)
If the shoe were on the other foot…if, for example, Lewisohn was out there hawking theories that Well Actually, 60s Paul wasn’t a giant sleazebag who went through women like Kleenex, and Well Actually, Paul’s control issues didn’t really cause tension in the studio, and Well Actually, Linda had always dreamed of being a rockstar, Paul didn’t have to talk her into Wings at all —- then YES, absolutely I’d think something very weird and possibly shady was going on.
If in addition to all that, Lewisohn out of the blue made some sort of outrageous accusation about John…(geez, what would even be comparable?)… Maybe something like, “John’s shocked and sad reaction to Brian’s death was just an act for the cameras — the only thing he was really upset about was how it was going to affect their finances!” I could never trust such a person to write about John with fairness and understanding. And I would keep a skeptical eye on them.
This is very good.
I try not to be too judgmental about Paul’s treatment of women in the 1960s. I think the Rules of Engagement were quite different than anything I know or have experienced, so I try to not to judge. I think he probably could’ve treated Jane Asher better, but otherwise…from what I know of the rockstar/groupie thing, it was a mostly-mutual, understood casualness.
@Michael: Sure, I don’t hold Paul’s sexual excesses against him particularly, either. My point is that if Lewisohn was out there actively denying or minimizing it (“Paul wasn’t a slut, he was just a bold experimenter, His Own Man blazing His Own Path! It definitely had no ill effect on his personal life or capacity for stable relationships!”), that would be very very strange. Likewise I don’t at all think John’s heroin addiction makes him a bad person, but from a certain PR-perspective it’s Not A Good Look, and if a biographer seems too invested in protecting their subject from Not Good Looks, that undermines their credibility. And if it keeps happening over and over…maybe something shadier than dewy-eyed fanhood is afoot.
This is an absurdly rosy, wholly uneducated view of this topic.
Anecdotes are not data, but I have known several Brits of Lewisohn’s age who define addiction as “not being able to function.” So, if you can hold down a job, you can’t be an addict; if you’re writing songs, you can’t be an addict; it’s ignorant of both what addiction is, and how it manifests in one’s life. But even in those terms, compare John’s productivity in 1967 and ’68 to 1969; there’s a huge drop-off.
Also: “far too creative and lucid…doesn’t exhibit any signs of being strung out”? Clearly he’s never seen this interview, from January 14, 1969: https://youtu.be/WOxnqwco7Cw
Not only is it absurdly rosy, but Paul f**king McCartney is on record saying that the other Beatles knew John was on heroin: “He was getting into harder drugs than we’d been into and so his songs were taking on more references to heroin. Until that point we had made rather mild, oblique references to pot or LSD. But now John started talking about fixes and monkeys and it was harder terminology which the rest of us weren’t into. We were disappointed that he was getting into heroin because we didn’t really know how we could help him. We just hoped it wouldn’t go too far. In actual fact, he did end up clean but this was the period when he was on it. It was a tough period for John, but often that adversity and craziness can lead to good art, as I think it did in this case.”
Note that even this quote contradicts Lewisohn: the other Beatles knew he was on it, full well, and “it was a tough period” for him, a statement that, for Paul McCartney, a diplomatic English man born in 1942 protecting the memory of his deceased partner and friend, acknowledges the same thing that Peter Brown and Barry Miles say: John was in a lot of pain because of the heroin addiction.
The other bizarre thing about Lewisohn’s quote, beyond what Nancy and Kristy expertly identified, is that it doesn’t seem like Lewisohn’s interested or able to identify the relevant data if he’s not able to discern the red flags about John in 1969 (“sure, he’s not writing as many songs…”). John in that Two Junkies interview Michael posted is painful to watch. John in the LIB videos is tough to watch. It’s not hard (although it’s unpleasant) to imagine that if he had accidentally OD’d in March 1969, there’d be stories about him the way there are about, say, Brian Jones: “by the end, nobody knew what state Lennon would turn up to a session, if he turned up at all. He could barely piece together a song, and struggled to play even a rudimentary bass line. He was sullen, uncommunicative, haggard, somnolent, and pale. McCartney and Harrison got tired of carrying him. But in those days, there were no rehab centers, and they were young, and didn’t know what to do…”
“John was in a lot of pain because of the heroin addiction.” Or he was on heroin because of the pain. That’s usually how it works right?
You missed another thing in Paul’s quote (which I never read before, thank you for providing it) that is key: John kicked the habit.
People don’t get addicted because of “pain.” Addicts justify addiction because of “pain.”
When someone is telling you they did a drug because they were in so much pain, more pain than you can imagine, more pain than you have ever had, be wary.
And yet, when John says that he ate acid like candy, no one questions if he’s telling the truth. To me that is more distressing than if he used a needle for his heroin use.
@Michelle, I’m not sure what you mean? That if someone thinks John probably shot up at some point and was hedging with “I only snorted,” then that person must also assume he downplayed his acid use too? I’m confused. You can look at a celebrity’s statements and interviews and form opinions about when and where they might have been hedging and when and where they were probably telling the truth. You’ll get it wrong sometimes, of course, but it’s perfectly fair to speculate. I think there are any number of areas (very much including drug use) where Paul habitually hedges, too. I also think he is sometimes quite candid. Same with John. Though John’s specious image of UNFLINCHING HONESTY does get in the way. That said, heaven knows I don’t hold it against them personally (good lord, the things I would hedge about in their position…..) and if John did shoot and later lied about it, my guess would be that he did so to protect his wife, who was getting blamed for “hooking” him. Very understandable.
@Annie and @Michelle, the other thing is that when John says he used acid all the time, OTHER PEOPLE’S ACCOUNTS BEAR THAT OUT. I’m not aware of a single person other than maybe George Martin who hasn’t affirmatively said yeah, John used LSD to excess, even by the standards of 1967. Every single book, interview, etc. that addresses the subject paints a uniform portrait of a man who was using acid a ton. So John’s statement that he used it all the time comports with the other available evidence.
In contrast, John and Yoko say that they only snorted a little heroin when they were in real pain. But Barry Miles and Peter Brown, who were there, say J&Y were full-fledged junkies. Documentary evidence – the video Michael G. posted, the film of Lennon during Get Back, Lennon’s remarks about “shooting is exercise” — suggest Lennon’s heroin addiction was more severe than that. His appearance and behavior in late 1968 and 1969 would be consistent with someone who is seriously addicted to heroin. And heroin use had and has a stigma that LSD use does not. And even Lewisohn admits that John relapsed around 1971 in one of the quotes posted on this thread. All of THAT suggests that no, John Lennon may not have used heroin a little, just sniffed so he didn’t get too addicted, and walked away. And not only that, such a scenario is highly unlikely for purely chemical reasons — heroin is very addictive, and John had an extremely addictive personality.
That was in response to MichaelB saying that addicts are notoriously dishonest about their addictions. I’m saying John was very honest about his copious LSD consumption, so why would he lie about his method of taking heroin (especially since he was honest about the heroin itself)?
Michael B outlined several motives John and/or Yoko might have had to downplay the extent of their heroin use, along with several pieces of evidence that suggest it was more serious than they said. Most people are honest, right up until they run into something they don’t want to be honest about. I think Paul is very honest about the art for his album covers. Except for a certain ladybug photo.
Fair enough, @MichaelB and@Annie. And Annie, those were dung beetles (obvi).
This is a great comment.
And not only does it “raise significant concerns about the accuracy of his work,” it raises them about a central, perhaps THE central, issue of why The Beatles broke up. Which is as key to Lewisohn’s story as Russia and Waterloo is to Napoleon. If Lewisohn writes three long books and concludes that the group broke up because John and Paul got married, or somehow The Beatles were too constricting for Genius Lennon, or some other hot take from “Lennon Remembers,” that will call the whole series into question.
What is stopping Paul from saying that heroin addiction broke up the Beatles? He has always maintained that it was John falling in love with Yoko that did it, or on some occasions he’ll say the band came full circle professionally. He doesn’t gloss over John’s heroin use. He brought it up himself in a 1986 interview with Chris Salewicz. I’m not saying it wasn’t a factor in the breakup. Maybe it was. It was a confusing time for Paul and things were happening quickly, but in retrospect why doesn’t he see what you as outside observer sees? Does he think it will hurt the Beatles legacy to say it was heroin that was their downfall?
There is no historical value in writing a longer, more boring, better researched version of Shout! if you’re not going to ask questions not just of the evidence you’re digging up, but also of the evidence that’s already out there.
I strongly suspect it will end up like Norman’s Lennon biography: decent on the early years, but not great, and progressively less good, to being downright un-useful, the closer you get to May 1968.
That said, there’s plenty of stuff in the early days, too, that merits further explanation. What was John’s relationship with Epstein like in the early days? Not did they do it and when, but how close were they? How much did they talk, and waht about? To waht extent did John, as Goldman alleges based on (presumably) primary source interviews with unsavory and potentially unreliable people, accompany Brian into the gay/organized crime gambling showbiz underworld? What about the band’s speed use? When did it taper off? What about all the people like the Process Church that we’ve talked about on here — when did they show up and who kept them out? What about Epstein’s other “business” connections, like David Jacobs?
And even if Lewisohn doesn’t have the stomach for that stuff: what happened when John got back from India? What drugs was he doing; who was he hanging out with? When did he start using heroin? When did Paul stop doing coke, and start drinking a lot? Paul says that John spent the summer of ’68 doing smack with “some of the boys in the Stones,” which means Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and their idiot drug mule friends. Within a year, Jones was dead and Richards looked like he was a 40 year old meth addict — what does that tell us about Lennon’s life during this time? What motivated him to do this?
Once you have the data, perhaps the single biggest barrier to good biography is propriety.
The PROPER Beatles story has been told. The only stuff left is the improper stuff and, given the parameters of the Beatles’ lives, there’s probably quite a lot of that information, and it’s probably pretty important.
“When did Paul stop doing coke, and start drinking a lot?”
This is another drug-related issue I wish we had more info on. I’ve seen assumptions that coke made Paul more difficult to work with, and that’s probably true to some extent, but judging by his weight loss he would have reached peak cokehead in 1967, when by all accounts there was still lots of love in the room, so to speak. Doesn’t mean he didn’t drive people batty occasionally in “THERE WAS A CREAK FROM THE PIANO PEDAL THE TAKE IS RUIIIINED WE HAVE TO RECORD IT AGAIN” / “OH MY GOD PAUL LITERALLY NO ONE CAN HEAR IT BUT YOU WE ARE NOT DOING IT AGAIN” type debates but it’s worth keeping in mind that for someone of Paul’s inside-out upside-down energy patterns it’s just possible that coke might have actually evened him out*, to a degree, at least at first. (Then 8 blunts at night to help him sleep, natch. Pot for dinner, coke for breakfast. Meal plan of champions!!)
Anyway my actual point is that coming OFF coke might have made him a lot more difficult to work with than when he was on it. If we’re positing a cocaine->booze transition then, going by his weight fluctuations again, that puts coke withdrawal mode smack dab during the white album sessions. Which by many accounts were the worst ever — he even drove RINGO away, ffs. And didnt Derek Taylor say he’d never hated anyone as much as Summer of ’68 Paul?
*Ditto the speed in Hamburg, which is a whole other very interesting topic if you’re willing to consider the possibility Paul has ADHD.
@Annie “ he even drove RINGO away, ffs. ”
Off topic but this made me laugh :).
I’ve always felt Ringo was the real hero of the Beatles. He was the one all three boys loved unquestionably and could never be or stay mad at. Which is probably why he was given the unfortunate role of being the diplomat for John and George when they sent him to Paul’s to deliver there letter.
Agreed, Ringo’s role as Universal Friend is undervalued indeed!
Annie M, that’s interesting. There are also quotes from Abbey Road engineers in that giant “Recording the Beatles” book about how miserable Paul was to work with in summer 1968. And judging from the photos, it seems like he started drinking more in the latter half of that year. I assume the same with Paul as John: if he tells us he was using coke for “about a year,” I tend to believe it was longer than that. I could see it all getting to be too much for him after he had to deal with the John and Yoko situation.
I feel for Paul the most around 68-69: there’s no amount of pleasing he can do that’s going to solve John’s issues and save the band, and he KNOWS how special the Beatles are.
this is very interesting.
Summer of ’68 is also when Jane dumped Paul. That could be another cause of his drinking and bad temper, or another effect of it, or both.
The party line is that the only drug the Beatles were doing in India was pot. I’ve always assumed that’s when Paul quit coke, although he could have started back up when he got back to London (if he’d quit already, that is).
“if he tells us he was using coke for “about a year,” I tend to believe it was longer than that.”
That’s how I roll too, Michael B. Especially when it’s Paul talking about anything negative. I even wonder if there was something more than booze at play during his great depression; once he said “I hit the bottle. I hit the substances,” and I wonder what substances he meant. Maybe just pot, but with his enduring attitude toward pot as non-harmful/non-addictive, I don’t know that he would lump it in with alcohol as a self harm substance. Maybe pills; Francis Schwartz said she would find pills in his pockets which he was quick to tell her were “nothing.” For whatever that’s worth.
Thanks to Tumblr I’ve discovered Paul dabbled in heroin more than his usual party line lets on:
‘He even tried heroin, snorting a bit some hipster friend had handed to him months, maybe years, earlier. “To escape. To be numb,” he said. It didn’t do anything for him, it didn’t make anything better. “I was a zombie.”’ —Peter Carlin’s bio
“I hid in Scotland for months, I let myself go, grew a beard and started drinking heavily and sniffing heroin.” —Showbiz magazine interview from the 90s
This does not surprise. McCartney’s life was awash in drugs of all sorts from 1961 on; I have never thought he was particularly abstemious, but I do think he’s less prone to addiction than John. Or, once he’d tried pot, had found the drug that worked for him.
Well we haven’t seen the actual quote that Lewisohn said re heroin or the context he said in. This is just based on someone else characterising what he allegedly said.
Peter Doggett has a new book coming out:
Prisoner of Love: Inside The Dakota With John Lennon
Maybe Doggett will have more info on John&Yoko’s heroin habit.
John Lennon’s five-year retirement from the world of music, his brief comeback in 1980, and his brutal murder outside his New York home have become the stuff of legend. But the reality of his daily life during that period has been obscured by the mythology Lennon sold to the press in his final interviews, and which his widow Yoko Ono has maintained to this day.
That already makes me feel like it’s going to be another John Lennon was a miserable hermit trapped in the Dakota by big bad Yoko biography.
(Again a miserable hermit who travelled the world, was seen out and about in New York, still socialised and kept in contact with his family back in England)
I hope I’m wrong but the title and the write up don’t give me hope that this is going to be informative without the need to be salacious and play on tired tropes, particularly about Yoko.
I did enjoy You Never Give Your Money as I think that did take a look at the Beatles in different and fresh way so maybe I’m being too pre-emptively harsh on Doggett but I’m also aware that Peter Doggett said in a three part documentary about Lennon/McCartney song writing (excellent documentary by the way) that Being for the benefit of Mr Kite was an example of John’s laziness as a song writer. I mean a lot of musicians probably would have love to have been as “lazy” as John as a songwriter.
There’s a Catch-22 when considering books about the Beatles (or any other highly popular person or group).
If the author doesn’t love the person or group’s work, they’re unlikely to be able to say anything useful.
If the author does love the work, they’re likely to have some biases.
The best authors do a difficult balancing act. I think we’ve watched Philip Norman navigate all this in real time, from the time he produced the first edition of Shout!, to writing his Lennon bio, to writing his McCartney bio. At this point he seems to have achieved something of an even keel, but it took him more than 30 years.
@Nancy Yeah I agree with this. I think another thing to is if the writer has passion that makes for a better biography but passion comes with bias or preference.
I do agree that Norman’s probably the author I enjoy the most because he’s not only an engaging writer but as you say has that balancing act.
I’ll be interested if Doggetts book is more about Johns or the Beatles relationship to his own life and society, and the impact the Beatles and John had on society’s views of the world. That might possibly be an interesting different take.
I just worry reading the descriptions it’s being built up as “I use to be Johns biggest fan but then I read his super secret diaries and realised he and Yoko clubbed seals and other various horrors and now my whole life is a lie” even though based on some questionable stuff about John and Yoko in You never give me your money.
That being said I did overall enjoy You Never Give Me Your Money because I like that it told the Beatles story more from a business dealings perspective which was different then the usual by the numbers biography. So I’ll give it a chance.
@LeighAnn, go read about Yoko. Find as much as you can about her. Then write up what you think and we’ll run it as a post.
If Yoko is important, then she deserves scrutiny; not just praise or blame, but scrutiny.
Seeing as I’m not nearly as talented or eloquent as you or Nancy as writers I don’t think Im secure enough to compose anything. My thoughts are too jumbled and go off in tangents. I don’t want to subject people to that LOL.
But I did go and see if I could find much better writers who have a more softer view of Yoko to provide another perspective.
This article goes a little more into Yokos history and her as individual and artist:
This is a more recent article in the Guardian that looks at Yoko more as an individual:
This article is more a brief look at changing perspectives on Yoko, not as interesting or offering much elaboration on insights but I like that they show a quote of Johns which talks about why he was with Yoko.
I mean I think there is an element of hypocrisy and naivety in Yoko and JohnandYoko story, but I’m also of the opinion that all of us are hypocrites at some point in our lives or over somethings. We can say it’s awful that so many in the world are starving but we are all guilty of buying an extra pair of shoes or handbags or gadgets we probably don’t really need.
LeighAnn – thanks for linking to these articles which are all enjoyable reads.
In the Distractify one, Robert Rodriguez is quoted as saying that “there is not a Beatle fan out there that doesn’t have strong feelings toward” Yoko. This may well be true, but interestingly I have yet to encounter another Beatles fan whose “strong feelings” toward her are based at least in part on an appreciation of the music she has made.
I will admit that I fell hook, line and sinker for The Ballad of J&Y when I was very young and suffered pangs of intense Weltschmerz after reading The Goldman Book at 14. However, none of the insights Mr. Goldman was able to provide hampered my enjoyment of Yoko’s POB and Fly albums (which I, rather ecstatically, got my hands on around the same time), and I regularly listen to them to this day.
Both records are deeply emotional yet mostly comforting listens to me, and I find it remarkable what a wide range of styles and moods Yoko covered on them, especially Fly. Unfortunately, starting with a bunch of songs on Some Time In NYC, she then attempted a transition to simplistically preachy soft rock, as exemplified by the professionally-made but super-awkward Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling the Space LPs (although even these have their highlights, like Move On Fast on AIU). The next one she made, A Story, is really good though!
I sort of like some of her early 80s songs on the LPs she shared with John but haven’t heard her later albums (one of which, like STINYC, was apparently produced by Phil Specturghh). But Midsummer New York, Open Your Box, Don’t Worry Kyoko (especially the Toronto live version), Sisters O Sisters, We’re All Water, Why, Greenfield Morning, Paper Shoes, Mind Train, Mind Holes etc pp all kick serious butt, and the quieter/weider stuff (Joe Jones’ Tone Deaf Music Co.!) is all lovely as well. It’s funny cos it’s true!
Thank you, @LeighAnn. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot! 🙂
What I want for Yoko is a definitive biography done by a person who is able to judge her fairly. Not a fan book, nor a hatchet job. Not journalism or opinion, but research.
Sisters O Sisters, We’re All Water and Walking on Thin Ice are all favorite Yoko tracks of mine. I like her stuff on DF too especially Beautiful Boys and I’m Moving On (though the repeated use of the word “phony” is slightly disturbing to me, what with it being MDC’s – and Holden Caulfield’s- favorite word). Surprised there aren’t any conspiracy theories around THAT. Although Fred Seaman did say that Yoko conspired with MCD to have John killed.
OH HOLY SHIT
HERE WE GO FOLKS
@Michael Gerber – did you read You Never Give Me Your Money? Doggett’s not Goldman (thank God), but he does go there about the Dakota years. As in, he notes the evidence of cocaine and heroin use, the reports of depression, the accounts from Pete Shotton, May Pang, and George Harrison that complicate the Ballad, etc. Lord knows what is in this new book, but…
I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but if Lennon remains a figure of historical interest, it would be interesting to see someone take a scholarly approach to *very end of the Dakota years,* if people get my drift.
*Cue fire drill scene from The Office*
@Michael Gerber: if writing/publishing books about John is so difficult without Yoko on board 100%, how would Doggett be able to get around/counteract that, do you think? (Assuming she isn’t gonna like his take, wich seems a very safe bet.)
By not using Yoko as a source? People are free to publish whatever they want. I thought we knew that with the Goldman book. She just won’t endorse a book if she doesn’t like it or agree to talk.
@Michelle, if her health permits Yoko will–as in the past–push back hard in the press against any take that (she feels) doesn’t paint her in a good light. Yoko’s opinion carries a lot of weight with a certain kind of Lennon fan. And she’s been very good about cultivating a certain kind of social capital; saying “Yoko is a very important artist in her own right” and “of course Yoko didn’t break up the Beatles” and “people don’t like Yoko because they are sexist and racist”–all extremely debatable statements–are all status quo opinions.
The calculation being made by the publisher is that there are enough Beatle fans who have wondered about the veracity of the official story of 1975-80. We shall see; in general Standard Narrative has sold a lot better, but Doggett’s a good and serious Beatle writer, and Lennon’s public portrait has darkened considerably in the last twenty years.
Song lyrics yes, interviews no.
Oops, this was meant for Annie’s question downthread about copyright.
@Michael: “Lennon’s public portrait has darkened considerably in the last twenty years.”
How much of that is merely a reaction to Lennon’s mythical status? Seeing as he’s been dead for twice as long and can’t alter the narrative himself, I would say quite a lot. For those of us who have always seen him as a man and not a myth, the microscope that is continually held over his every flaw gets tiresome. Maybe being a mythical figure has nothing to do with flaws, or lack thereof, at all. Paul hasn’t quite achieved mythical status yet, despite the fact that people are hard pressed to find fault with him.
@Michelle, what I meant was: Lennon’s physical violence, his drug addictions, and his possible bisexuality changing from really radical opinions (as they were in 1988) into an accepted part of the portrait.
I think you’re right; mythological status has little to do with flaws. Witness JFK.
I actually think Paul would be much MORE popular if he had a large, visible flaw.
@Michelle (down thread bu to Reply button:
“Paul hasn’t quite achieved mythical status yet, despite the fact that people are hard pressed to find fault with him.”
Believe me, they’re are plenty of detractors out there. I imagine you just need to look in some other forums.
I don’t think he can, @Annie; I think whatever he says, if it’s negative, is going to be gainsayed by a certain kind of fan. “Well what do you expect from a writer who would use stolen sources? How do we know the ‘diaries’ were real, and not something forged by the International Anti-Yoko Conspiracy?”
Because that’s key here; no matter how dark a portrait of Lennon is, it’s counterbalanced by his massively positive contributions to the world. That’s why I can stand to spend as much time as I do on HD rattling on about heroin addiction, etc. We can all agree it’s not the first or even fiftieth most important thing about the guy. But Yoko…her post-1980 public persona is intimately connected to her husband, and the story that they were a great love story. If that’s not true, he’s still a Beatle, but she’s been selling us a bill of goods. (He was, too, but he died a long time ago.)
The question from a publishing point of view is: is Lennon/Beatles fandom still dominated by fans that require belief in The Ballad of John and Yoko? Or has the fandom changed? How many people simultaneously care enough about Lennon to buy a book about him, but also can stand a negative take on 1975-80?
First-generation fans needed to believe in the Ballad because it was tied up in a very Boomer idea of enlightened couplehood and marriage and childrearing. Belief serves a political end.
Second generation fans needed to believe in the Ballad because it counterbalanced a tragic end. Belief serves a personal need.
Do third generation fans give a shit? Or can their picture of John/Yoko/JohnandYoko be flexible? And how many of them are there…who will buy the book? It’s a fascinating question.
Thanks, Michael. I’m also wondering about the specifics of how much direct control Yoko has via copywrite /ownership of John’s image, voice, writings, interviews, etc. For example, if someone wants to quote an interview or even a song lyric of John’s, does she theoretically have the right to block that, if she takes the interest and effort to do so? Throwing this question out to anyone and everyone who has knowledge/experience in publishing/copywrite stuff btw…
This is my layman’s opinion: @Annie, this falls under the heading of Fair Use, which is murky at best, and often moderated by the wealth of the person bringing suit. (So, if you’re broke and can’t defend against a suit even if you’re likely to win, you have to shut up and pay up.)
Interviews are definitely useable. What Yoko owns are photos, his voice, his writings. Doggett will be able to do the same kind of speculation we do here, plus quote interviews in the public record, plus quote people HE interviews, plus his own experience.
I am sure the whole book has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb; I am sure the provenance of the diaries was checked before they even offered Doggett a contract. I’ll see if I can get him to talk to us.
It would be interesting to know who has given him access to the diaries.
I would assume that it’s the estate itself and that Doggett has been allowed to see whatever bits of the diaries paint Yoko in the best light and promote the Ballad.
Who but the estate would have the authority to allow someone like Doggett to use the diaries? The estate owns them surely – even if they’ve been stolen.
A disgruntled employee smuggled some xeroxes out is my guess. The same way bootlegs got out before Anthology.
Aparently Yoko does not approve. Just saw a FB post that the book has been cancelled due to legal actions being threatened….
With a pub date so close, I bet there were uncorrected page proofs released (“galleys”). We shall see…
@Jesse – Well, there’s a surprise.
I hope Doggett has the guts to find another way to make public whatever he found in those diaries.
I would like to know who knew what and when about John’s murder – including John himself.
@Elizabeth- I would like to know who knew what and when about John’s murder – including John himself.
I can tell you that John knew about it at approximately 10:50 p.m. on December 8, 1980.
Thanks for the follow up, @Michael! Tho now my question is now mooted…RIP, Prisoner Of Love!
Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure.
@michael Olivia and Linda are white women and conventional in nature, plus somewhat fairly submissive to their husbands careers and desires.
You can’t really say that perceptions of Yoko as an Asian, Avantgarde, unconventional woman who is not submissive to her husband (infact her husband was largely submissive to her) do not include a dose of unconscious bias, otherism, racism and sexism. That she is scrutinised more for her actions because of that fact then Linda and Olivia for similar. I mean Linda was hanging around the studio around the same time as Yoko, Linda got involved or commented on inner Beatle politics judging from some of the recordings from Let it Be- and yet Yoko is the evil one who broke up the band. (And to be honest I dislike that any of the women are held accountable for the actions of their husbands and their decisions).
John and Yoko say they love each other and are happy raising their children and it’s a conspiracy but Paul and Linda or George and Olivia or Ringo and Barbara can say they love each other and are happy raising their children and nobody blinks twice.
I mean for a modern comparison I look at Meghan and Prince Harry (who I have seen many people compare to Yoko) and how she has been scrutinised for everything she does right or wrong, compared unflattering against her white sister in law and since her marriage her husbands gone from beloved and the favourite to one of the least popular Royals because he married her and put her and his family before duty, the Royals and the public’s opinion.
I’m not saying Yoko is a perfect person or that she didn’t make mistakes or do things that were wrong and or that she not be scrutinised. I can’t even call myself a fan of hers. But I do think the level of resentment and scrutiny Yoko received/receives doesn’t match or equate with her actions from what I can tell, and that she has been an easy target for many. I also think there have been things said or written about her overtime that have yet to be provable. I mean in this comment section alone there are comments implying Yoko is bribing or threatening an author, which are crimes.
Off topic- I just clicked on the link for Peter Doggett new book and in my opinion if authors are going use John Lennon’s diaries to sell their biographies go ahead and quote them! Quote his exact words. Otherwise I feel the use of referring to the diaries just give authors a creative license to write whatever colourful biography they want and call it fact because they’ve read these mysterious diaries but they can’t tell you how or what exactly John wrote.
I mean considering they were stolen property if Peter Doggett has read them he should probably question the morals of reading someone’s private stolen thoughts, but I hope that if he’s banking on the diaries to sell his book that he’s actually going to be factual and accountable about that.
See, I think the fact that Yoko is an Asian woman who is unconventional in nature, has ultimately worked in her favour. That and John’s murder has protected her from scrutiny:
1. Because people have on the whole been too kind to scrutinise.
2. Because people are too afraid of being labelled sexist and/or racist to scrutinise.
However, it has been 40 years since John’s death. Provided Yoko’s actions/behaviour are scrutinised in a way that is not sexist or racist, why not?
I have no idea whether Michael is brave enough to do it on this site, but I would very much like to see an article examining not only Yoko, but also the people around her in the 1970’s. Who exactly was Sam Green and what was the Egypt trip really about? Why was he named in John’s will? Who were his contacts?
Why are these questions ignored by biographers? None of it makes sense.
@Elizabeth, that’s more than my career is worth, to be honest. My sense is that (like the people around Epstein ten years earlier) those people were serious money up to serious mischief, protected by serious muscle. I attempted to plot a novel which addressed some of this stuff tangentially under the cover of fiction, but the territory quickly became too dark. I am not suited for true crime or noir, and this was beyond noir.
I agree that there are many, many questions that should be answered, and once answered show a clearer picture of John and Yoko—but the problem is, I don’t think many people want to see either of them “warts and all” for the reasons you mention. Either you’re a JohnandYoko believer, or you don’t really care. The time for that journalism to be done was in the early 1980s, and I suspect that there are answers, perhaps, in the Grossman archive.
@Elizabeth, there are more questions where those come from, too, and it’s the same lack of curiosity amongst fans that leads me to suspect, regretfully, that they’ll never be answered. Or, if the records aren’t destroyed, they’ll be answered in 150 years, when nobody much cares.
For what it’s worth, I think all these issues – the heroin issue we’ve been discussing, the Egypt trip, Sam Green – are all at the core of explaining the great and unsatisfactorily explained tragedies in the Beatles’ story, the breakup and Lennon’s murder. In the standard narrative, they’re not explained in a satisfactory way: they just happen, surrounded by a flurry of reasons that feel more like “because I said so” than cause and effect, logical association, or anything like that. The questions left unanswered point to a general sense I have that for the last twelve years of his life, John – more so than the other Beatles – was surrounded by people who were not benign, who did not have his best interests at heart. John’s damage and impulsivity meant that he, more than the other three, needed to be around people who did care about him – Epsteins, McCartneys, Pete Shottons. As soon as those get replaced by black market art dealers and people encouraging him to try heroin, things go bad.
@Michael – I don’t think fans lack curiosity per se. I do think they’ve been conditioned to:
1. Dismiss Fred Seaman as a disgruntled ex-employee.
2. Dismiss May Pang as a jealous ex-girlfriend.
3. Dismiss Goldman as a hack.
4. View Yoko as a victim.
They’ve been brainwashed by a media campaign paid for by people with ‘serious money up to serious mischief, protected by serious muscle’. Michael G’s comment sums it up perfectly.
I hope it doesn’t take 150 years for people to open their eyes, but I do think it would take someone very brave to dare ask questions about an unconventional Asian woman in today’s climate, never mind an unconventional Asian woman protected by ‘serious muscle’.
For me, I can’t get past the will. I get that Sam Green targeted rich, gullible women, so him being named in the will makes sense. Yoko was gullible enough to allow this to happen, right? But for Green to get his hands on the money, both John and Yoko had to die. And that didn’t happen, so what went wrong and who knew what?
@LeighAnn: “and yet Yoko is the evil one who broke up the band. (And to be honest I dislike that any of the women are held accountable for the actions of their husbands and their decisions).”
Me too! Though I think I read from Paul, Linda or adjacent that Linda was also blamed for a while for breaking up the Beatles! I do think the “Yoko did it” theme is pretty much exploded these days, and anyone who keeps on about her being the sole cause of the breakup either isn’t looking closely or has questionable (possibly sexist, racist?) motives. But certainly Yoko’s presence had a pretty powerful effect and that’s what I’ve seen examined. I mean, sure Paul brought Linda, but (a) he didn’t initiate that and it looks like a “hmph” response to John’s bringing Yoko, and (b) JohnandYoko were so “all-consuming” that they have a smushname. So the situation is a little different for deep-dive purposes, I think.
“John and Yoko say they love each other and are happy raising their children and it’s a conspiracy but Paul and Linda or George and Olivia or Ringo and Barbara can say they love each other and are happy raising their children and nobody blinks twice. ”
Well, there’s been plenty of blinking that I’ve seen. I mean, I think George’s sexual excesses are in the public brain, and aren’t there a whole set of tapes from Peter Cox purporting to show how Linda also faced depression over her marriage? But in the end, John and Yoko’s whole relationship from their first meeting was mythologized by them, and so there’s a lot more scrutiny. John and Yoko also had the very public two-year split and then they reunited and John mostly disappeared from the music world. It makes for a lot more intriguing analysis than interrogating the same stresses and ups and downs any old marriage had, which is what Paul and Linda have said publicly about their long marriage. So I’m not surprised John and Yoko get a lot more scrutiny. (Personally I’d love more analysis of Paul and Linda. I mean, they were in a massively successful rock band together!)
“JohnandYoko were so “all-consuming” that they have a smushname.”
Hahaha… Also before Brangelina, Bennifer and Kimye there was Joko.
I think there was definitely racism and sexism at play towards Yoko when she came on the scene, especially from the British press but she wasn’t the only one, Linda was also targeted as well and referred to in the press as a “Jewish American Princess” and faced a lot of backlash for her part in the Eastman -Klein schism so she didn’t get off scott free either.
With Yoko I think it’s also important not to just look at her victimisation in the press but also the way both her and John used the press to get their version of the break up across. Let’s not forget that Yoko has had a decades long relationship with Jann Wenner that meant that Rolling Stone was pretty much her mouthpiece for the Ballad of J&Y so I definitely think that it’s inaccurate to portray Yoko solely as a victim, she’s an extremely powerful and savvy person and a formidable opponent for anyone.
@LeighAnn, I’m not going to FIGHT you about this. I sense your opinions here are part of larger beliefs, which you have every right to have and I have no desire to argue about. My only interest is in getting past the spin and opinions, and also to ask: why so much spin around Yoko and not the others?
Here’s an example of the distortion field:
“Olivia and Linda are white women and conventional in nature, plus somewhat fairly submissive to their husbands careers and desires.”
I specifically brought up OLIVIA, who is not white (she’s Mexican), and not particularly conventional (George wouldn’t have married her if she was; nor would she have put up with George’s infidelities, coke use, and so forth), and definitely not in any way “submissive” (see Clapton’s comment about “a Mexican girl”). You probably know all the same things about her that I do–I’m not an Olivia Harrison expert–so why does she seem all those things to you? I’m not asking you to answer, I’m asking you to ponder.
“(And to be honest I dislike that any of the women are held accountable for the actions of their husbands and their decisions).”
Me too, but a rock band is a social thing, and the social environment around it matters. That Yoko wasn’t a Beatle, and was a woman, and Japanese, and a conceptual artist, and and and doesn’t change the fact that 1) she introduced John to heroin, 2) irritated the shit out of the other Beatles and their support team, and 3) was seen by many as “bad news” then, and ever since. These things are facts, and to wave them ALL away as “racism/sexism/othering” is too damn convenient. Yoko is a fully functioning, fully equal human being; she should be judged on those terms, not on a curve.
“John and Yoko say they love each other”
…and a bunch of books come out saying that’s not true, that John hit Yoko and was bisexual, and they were not Two Virgins but Two Junkies. And Yoko spends decades denying this. And then, when she feels it’s personally advantageous, admits that yes, it’s true. John and Yoko had a relationship that was at best — at BEST — complicated. To dismiss that as “conspiracy” is selective. Why be selective? She’s a grownup, full of flaws and strengths. We needn’t ignore the flaws to celebrate the strengths.
“I mean in this comment section alone there are comments implying Yoko is bribing or threatening an author, which are crimes.”
No they aren’t. And I’ll come out and say it: I don’t think any book could, or would, be published about Yoko Ono if she didn’t sign off on the project first, and have the right to read and “correct” it. That kind of power is common to extremely wealthy celebrities. Yoko Ono is a BILLIONAIRE, @LeighAnn. She is not a victim.
“I mean considering they were stolen property”
Were they? Who says? Oh, right, Yoko. And Fred Seaman, after (he says) he got intimidated and hauled into court. I don’t know who’s right, Fred or Yoko, but I don’t believe Yoko automatically. Could Fred be a dastardly assistant, looking to screw his famous bosses? Sure. But his story could also be true.
“if he’s banking on the diaries to sell his book that he’s actually going to be factual and accountable about that.”
…and the person who has those diaries is Yoko. If she wants “factual and accountable” she could do the conventional thing and allow all the Lennon material to be available to scholars. The guy’s been dead for 40 years for Chrissake. Or she can continue to hoard information and create a narrative.
Once again, none of this is an attempt to convince you that Yoko is History’s Greatest Monster. I don’t think she is. But neither do I think she is a victim, and neither do I think she’s interested in “factual and accountable.” She’s interested in what helps her, and keeps fans thinking that she’s a Great Artist, and the Victim of the Story.
She’s a fascinating character, and I encourage you to keep reading/thinking about her. There was a time when I thought we’d get a definitive biography, but I think that time has passed.
I’m not trying to keep up debate just genuinely curious what’s books said John beat Yoko? I know Goldman claimed John caused Yoko’s miscarriage because he beat her and went into the bisexual, gay love affair with Brian and Thai male prostitutes but … it’s Albert Goldman.
I admit I haven’t read every book out there but I can’t recall Yoko admitting she was beaten by John.
And I wasn’t aware that Olivia was Mexican. That’s interesting. I’m sorry I didn’t know that. But then again she’s a fairly silent character. I will say that I appreciate that she seems to have a supportive relationship with Yoko, Julian and Sean judging by their social media interactions which is nice.
@LeighAnn, the right question to ask isn’t “Did John beat Yoko? Who says?” but “Why, if we know *for sure* that John hit Cynthia, strangled May Pang, and was occasionally physically violent throughout his entire life, should we believe that he WASN’T physical with Yoko?”
Remember a couple of things with Goldman:
1) He did a TON of interviews — 1200 over six years. This is exhaustive. The Spitz book, for example, was largely based on Goldman’s interviews.
2) Yoko never sued. We can debate why she didn’t, but that book was vetted by lawyers pre-pub, and was never challenged in court so — at least in some limited way — it retains authority. Even if we don’t like the portrait (I don’t) and think Goldman was biased against his subject (I do) and painted Yoko in the worst light (he did).
Fans dismiss Goldman out of hand, but they should not. I consider it the far edge of truth, with Rolling Stone’s coverage of Lennon being the other edge. The man’s likely in the middle.
That’s another example magical thinking, too. “Heroin is addictive and debilitating for 99.9% of people who use it, but JOHN LENNON just tried it for a while when he was in real pain the way some of us try wheat beers, and then he stopped!” “John Lennon beat up the other two women with whom he had serious relationships, kicked Stu in the head, and nearly killed Bob Wooler with a chair, but he never hit Yoko” (even though he was often on a dangerous mixture of drugs).
…and the REASON he never hit Yoko was because she was a strong, liberated woman, a powerful and important artist in her own right who hadn’t even HEARD of John Lennon or The Beatles, who married John Lennon because she looooved him and didn’t need all that money, fame and power, and HOW DARE YOU suggest otherwise! 🙂
(Full disclosure: I don’t know whether J hit Y or not, just like I don’t know whether all the cruelties she’s accused of towards him happened. And the statement above explains some of the story…but not all of the story, and the other parts count, too.)
Does anyone own a copy of the very first printing of the Hunter Davies bio? I heard a rumor that in the original interviews for that, John and Cyn said the hitting happened multiple times. Then was changed for later printings and Cynthia stuck with the “only once” version for her own books. No idea if that’s true.
@LeighAnn- “And I wasn’t aware that Olivia was Mexican.”
Mexican-American. Not non-American as Michael said. She was born in Los Angeles.
Yes, of course; thank you for clarifying that. My point, which still stands, is that Olivia is also not Anglo/white. If simple racism was being applied to Beatle wives, she would come in for the same, or similar, treatment to that of Yoko. And yet she hasn’t. Nobody I know has a cross word to say about Olivia. And that’s worth noting.
I submit that, certainly post-1980, Yoko’s lousy press as resulted from the fact that she often comes off as haughty. Is she actually haughty? No clue. She also does tons of petty weird stuff like editing May Pang out of John’s songs and replacing it with her own voice. Or licensing her husband’s work for use in commercials. Or dropping little bombs in the press about her husband. You can object to that, and I do, without race or gender coming into it.
If you’re a Yoko fan, you must acknowledge that she has an oppositional personality, isn’t completely honest about certain issues regarding her husband and his band, and plays the disgusting I’m-a-billionaire-and-yet-always-the-victim card constantly. And all those things–not her race or gender–make her a lightning rod in the Beatles fan community.
For the record, I didn’t mean to imply that Olivia is a weak sort of person when I said she is seen and not heard, which is the opposite of Yoko and why she’s avoided getting slammed by people who have a problem with assertive women. It was mostly a joke because I haven’t heard what she has to say. I only know her as George’s second wife. She’s actually a tough cookie, if fighting off George’s attacker with a lamp during their 1999 home invasion is any indication.
THIS IS WHAT I’M GETTING AT.
So it’s not about being tough, fighting for yourself and your beloved husband, managing his Estate, or anything like that. Olivia does this fiercely and everybody’s cool with her. It’s the other stuff Yoko does, that bugs people and causes conflict.
@Michelle Agree on giving major props to Olivia for saving George.
And I agree that Yoko rubs people the wrong way. She’s an unconventional woman who likes to shock and subvert expectations. She is also human and flawed.
According to Cynthia herself he slapped her once and it caused her to hit her head against a wall, she broke up with him, he begged for her back and he never hit her again- those are her words.
Also there is no proof and its hear say that John kicked Stu in the head.
I haven’t read May Pang’s book so I can’t comment on her experience.
“According to Cynthia herself he slapped her once and it caused her to hit her head against a wall, she broke up with him, he begged for her back and he never hit her again- those are her words.”
Yoko paid her to write that.
This makes me think of a quote from Princess Bride:
Tyrone, you know much I love watching you work. But I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped!
Lennon, 1980: “I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women.”
That, plus what we know, convinces me that what we know is probably a minimization, not an exaggeration. Do you feel differently? Why?
When you’re evaluating statements, consider thinking in this manner: Who does it benefit if Cyn’s book is all about John’s abuse towards her? Lennon fans would HATE hearing that. Lennon fans would turn on her, and not buy her book. The entire publicity campaign become a painful discussion of “how John hit you.” Yoko would issue a statement saying that “John so loved the world, he gave his life for peace…and never hit ME” and look like she was defending St. Lennon against his publicity-hungry jilted first wife. On the other hand, who would it help?
Well if John really was the miserable violent nasty barely functioning addict he’s made out to be other questions to ask are why did the Beatles stay together all those years? Why do Paul and Ringo still get emotional talking about him 50 years later? Why does Paul always bring him up and how much he loves him without prompting 50 years later? Why do all the women John had serious relationships with speak so warmly about him and about how much they loved him and still seem protective of their relationship to him decades later? Why did John have as many loyal friends as he had? Are they all complicit to Johns crimes?
I think John hitting any woman is despicable. I think John beating up Bob Wooler was homophobic and despicable. Just like I think Bob Wooler implying gay connotations to John going on holidays with Brian is homophobic on his part. I think John mocking disabled people shows how uneducated he was about disabilities and was wrong. I think John having loud sex with a woman, forcing his wife to listen in the other room is despicable. I think the arrangement he and Yoko had in place of allowing May Pang who was a young women in their employ to be mistress while they worked out their marital problems was probably an abuse of power.
But I also know that John was open about the fact that he was not a perfect person and I characterise him based on interviews and even his song writing as someone who was plagued by that fact and wanted to be better and tried to search for ways to make himself better (primal scream therapy, peace activism, political activism, Yoko’s wacky astrology ideas, his interest in trepanning that he tried to convince Paul into at one stage ) but didn’t have the all the emotional tools to get there and then died right when it seemed he was starting to come to terms with himself and find some peace.
I also think that all the people closets to John talk about what a warm, generous funny and self deprecating guy he could be. I don’t think of him as wholly bad or wholly good, but wholly human. He was complex, flawed and a contradiction to be sure. Same as Yoko.
I wish he had lived long enough to reach the time where conventional therapy became more socially acceptable and where there was more knowledge about mental health and better treatment for drug addiction. Who knows what person he would have been had he had more resources and more understanding.
But no I don’t think that Cynthia saying John only hit her once is automatic proof he must of beat her daily. Maybe he did, but all I can go on is Cynthia’s word. Nor do I think she as the woman who was largely seen by the public as the sympathetic and wronged point in the Cyn/John/Yoko triangle was in the position to be intimidated or derided by the public.
There is photos of Cynthia and Yoko together decades later with their children. I’m sure they weren’t best friends but clearly there was a lot of water under the bridge between the two of them as they got older. Just like Yoko’s relationship to Paul and Ringo and less so with George became a lot more water under the bridge.
Addicts are charming, creative, hugely lovable people. That’s why addiction is so terrible. And addicts often function well for years, decades, before their illness becomes so acute that it even is visible, much less debilitating.
Conventional therapy was widely available by the mid-70s; he had plenty of resources. Even pharmacology was beginning to be workable in some ways. But–as an addict would, btw–John chose not to pursue it because he and Yoko were concerned about the therapist writing a tell-all book. Which no ethical therapist would do, obviously. I have many friends who are therapists and, this being the Westside of Los Angeles, assume they have famous clients. But I don’t know and will never know.
It’s not a question of never/always with John hitting Cyn. It’s John’s statements that make me doubt it was a one-time thing. And yes, we do have to give Cyn’s statements maximum weight. But we also have to be circumspect about the pressures on her making that statement. Our society still doesn’t want to hear domestic violence victims, and that was what, 1985? Deep in the world’s St. Lennon phase?
I agree, I think there definitely was a mellowing between the partners as the years rolled along, and was happy to see it.
“Addicts are charming, creative, hugely lovable people.”
Yes. And so are abusers. It’s how they keep people coming back to them, over and over again. And they have excellent instincts on which people in their life will tolerate what kind of treatment. They know exactly how to apologize — or even better they’ll groom people to make apologies for them. “Oh that’s just how they are, they don’t really mean it, you know what they’re like” isn’t sweet and endearing, it’s how abusers avoid consequences while simultaneously reminding people “I’m capable of hurting you, and I’ll do it again if you make me mad.” Pretty neat trick. Putting “HDYS” and “Jealous Guy” on the same album can be seen as “oh that tortured, mercurial John!” Or it can be seen as textbook gaslighting.
Do I think this is what John Lennon specifically had going on? And considering his traumas, mental illness, and addictions, how much should he be blamed for it? I don’t know. I try not to think about it too much, tbh. But “They can be so warm and lovely and charming tho!” does NOT cancel out or disprove abusive tendencies. It’s often part and parcel. And so, so, so many people have suffered and are suffering in the world because of this misunderstanding of abuse.
Agreed, @Annie. It’s really important for Lennon fans (of which I am one) to stop seeing him, or any of their heroes, as all-good or all-bad. That was Lennon’s constant refrain. He struggled with it himself–the world worshipped him, and he (at least outwardly) worshipped Yoko.
It’s probably my main reason for posting on this site anymore–to try to caution against the forces (PR/personality cult stuff on the one hand, unnuanced internet demonizing on the other) turning these people into cartoons. Of all the characters in the Beatles saga, John and Yoko are the ones most prone to mythologizing, and the most excessive in their behaviors, and so I’m always nudging people towards darker readings if they’re too light, and vice-versa.
@Michael well it something both John and Paul pushes back against. Both of them said on seperate occasions that people pigeon hold them as John was the bastard and Paul was the nice guy when the opposite was just as easily true.
And I think you’ll find it refreshing that reading an interview with Sean I found quote which I shared under another comment where he basically says the same thing. “My dad could be great but he also could be an asshole”.
Cynthia didn’t exhibit signs of physical abuse. Did she stay away from the press for the duration it took for a black eye to heal? John is prone to exaggerate and self-flagellate (even when it came to his beloved Beatles music). He also said he was fat. He was never fat. Funny how selective people are when it comes to believing John was telling the truth.
@Michelle, given how infrequently Cynthia was photographed in public, is that really dispositive?
Or selective about which biographers or people with insider information to believe about which Beatle. Peter Cox says he has tapes of Linda saying how miserable, depressed and trap she felt in her marriage, tapes Paul allegedly paid hundreds of thousands to get back and it’s all nothing to see here folks.
@Michelle – How on earth could anyone who wasn’t Cynthia know whether Cynthia exhibited signs of physical abuse or not?
The lengths to which people on here are prepared to go to defend the indefensible is astonishing.
Next you’ll be telling us that John didn’t put his hands around May Pang’s neck or throw her into a wall. (Actually, I think you might already have.)
@MichaelB: John didn’t lock Cyn away, despite Brian’s best efforts. They often travelled together, including during their first American tour. There are sites dedicated to Cynthia with plenty of pictures. Also, why hasn’t the alleged physical abuse been corroborated by Julian? He loved his mum, saw her every day and didn’t whitewash the fact that John was an absentee father.
@LeighAnn, the description of the Cox tapes makes me so sad for Linda. Not only was she going through a really rough patch in her marriage, she meets this guy who for whatever reason she trusted enough to confide in — which is HUGE btw; all of Paul and Linda’s friends say they NEVER complained about each other to third parties (for obvious reasons), and makes me wonder if Cox wasn’t some sort of emotional affair — and there he is, secretly recording her phone calls or whatever.
Sorry, this concept irks me. The systematic expansion of the concept of unfaithfulness is surely a hindrance on happy marriage. Regardless of this Cox fellow, if Linda had no close male friends but Paul, for all the decades she was married to Paul, that is a lonely thing indeed.
Fair enough, @Michael G — I think you are right!
During my early Beatles fandom when I was just getting to know the Beatles wives, I remember coming across something in a book where Linda was described as a “male-identified woman” and that was one the things that appealed to Paul. I thought, “Is that, like, an anti-feminist?” It actually is a term first used by the feminist movement to describe a woman “who requires male affirmation to confirm her existence, and sees things from the male perspective.” Also, male-identified women “support what enhances the status and lives of men” and “drop feminist principles in a flash if they interfere with romantic heterosexual concerns.” Sorry for going slightly OT, just thought it was interesting.
@annie I think fans focus so much on how fame sucked for John Paul Ringo George and there’s not nearly enough discussion about how much being a Beatle adjacent (wife, friend, family) sucked.
That’s probably why I have more tolerance for Yoko because for all the perks that came with meeting and marrying a Beatle I can’t imagine it was easy going from Yoko Ono, independent respected conceptual artist, to Yoko Ono crazy Japanese weirdo who ended the world greatest Band and ruined John the leader.
Just like I imagine it wasn’t always easy for Linda to be Paul’s wife. I’m sure she always had to be cautious of those around her and who to trust. And Linda also like Yoko went from being an independent woman with the freedom of anonymity, respected as a photographer to overnight no longer her own person but an extension of Paul.
And I think the thing that makes it sadder for me is that I don’t think that’s just a public thing either. It seems to me that Linda gave up a lot of herself to be Paul’s wife and in service of his career and needs. At least during the first decade or so of their marriage.
I mean I try not to compare but, John was almost willing to be subservient to Yoko and let her call the shots when it came to his career/business, where as I get the impression that was not Paul. Linda had to be in the band for Paul, and had to drag and mother all her kids around the world on tour for Paul, etc and I imagine that could have been isolating.
That being said without knowing more about what’s on the tapes I’m not going to judge Paul and Linda and their relationship anymore then I would John or Yoko for Johns diaries nobody has seen except by those claiming to know what’s in them without the goods to back it up.
And if I have learnt from my parents marriage and people I know who have been married decades, no one can know what goes on in your marriage but you and you don’t love your partner everyday or are happy every day, sometimes you can even gave periods where you hate your partner. Then it’s either about getting through it till it passes or calling it quits.
Please keep in mind that Linda was a fully fledged adult; if she reeeeeally didn’t want to be in Wings, or take the kids on tour, or or or, she wouldn’t have done it. Not disagreeing with your larger point–Beatle wife isn’t a job I would wish on anyone–but it does Linda a disservice to suggest that she was wholly passive in this. She wasn’t. I’m sure it was a complicated decision, but she made it. As a husband I have some inklings about why she made it, but those are guesses.
John turning over his business affairs to his wife–basically because he couldn’t be arsed–was a catastrophically bad decision for their marriage. It reinforced his vast, unhealthy dependency on her, the opposite of an equal, healthy partnership–and probably cost him many millions of dollars, especially after The Beatles broke up. Not to mention how it hastened the demise of the group.
Lennon handing over his autonomy to Yoko is no better, and probably worse given the romantic angle, than Brian Wilson doing the same thing with Eugene Landy.
@Michelle, I think it is quite the opposite. Linda still to this days gets criticized by other women that “she did not make an effort”, i.e. did not use heavy make up or sometimes none at all or wore ratber plain clothes, she was not girly at all. She obviously irritated a lot of other women and found it hard to connect with them.
@Annie M, Cox wrote a cook book with Linda, he taped their conversations for that purpose – they probably mostly consist of “and then chop the onions and throw them in as well ” stuff… this secret tapes thing has been blown out of all proportions and many people talk about them without having much info apart from the headlines, sadly.
And she did have both male and female friends. For starters, try and have a look at Danny Fields, Brian Clarke, Twiggy, Chrissie Hynde, Pete Townshend, Carla Lane.
Just recently Clarke had this to say about her: “If push came to shove and God’s finger came out the sky and hovered over my head and said, ‘you’ve got to say the name of somebody you really loved in life’, Linda would be very very high on the list”
That’s really nice to hear, @Jesse. Linda has always struck me as a very normal person thrown into an incredibly difficult spot, and I would hope that she had a strong support network. Being married to a Beatle, she would need it.
@Jesse: In one of the articles on male-identified women that I did a search on it said, “She may be traditional or modern, classically feminine in appearance or more masculine.” I was wondering myself if the person (I think it was a male writer) who called Linda a male-identified woman knew what he was talking about, or how he knew Linda enough to be sure of that.
@Michael Yoko actually built John’s wealth once he put her in charge of his business interest. In Phillip Norman’s book I remember there is a passage about how in the mid seventies after reading that Paul worth was estimated to be $200 million, John told Yoko he wanted to be worth the same. So Yoko started investing in land, agriculture, art, stocks and bonds to build up their wealth. When he died his net worth was estimated to be $150 million so not far off John’s – admittedly petty – goal of being as wealthy as Paul.
The only time I would say Yoko appears to have significantly cost John money was after he died when she and Paul didn’t buy back the Lennon/McCartney catalogue when it was offered to them because both thought the I believe $50 million price tag was to steep. Considering how much Michael Jackson and eventually Sony made from that catalogue I think not be willing to part with $25 mill each is one they will probably regret.
Um, @LeighAnn? I know this. I was actually alive and reading the articles about it at the time.
The late seventies and early eighties were a time of very high inflation, so “hard assets”– that is, real estate, art, even livestock — were used by wealthy people to hedge against inflation. This was not something Yoko invented; to not do this would’ve been criminally dumb, and would’ve gone against all the advice she was getting. Very wealthy people have lots of lawyers, advisors and money managers, and the Lennons were no exception. Yoko was, and is, likely following a plan created by those people; she is not, as some would have you believe, calling up numerologists, then getting brilliant ideas because she is Naturally Gifted At Business. Should she be commended for not fucking it up, as many showbiz people do? Yes. Absolutely.
But, see, that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s really a bad idea for either spouse to sign over total control of finances to the other partner–it causes a huge power imbalance in the relationship and, ultimately, the kind of infantilism that we see in John circa 1980. Just reverse the genders; if a fabulously successful wife handed over her fortune to her husband, whom she’d just gotten back together with, and who had no previous business experience, it would seem foolish at best, and at worst really patriarchal.
I know having to deal with Yoko cost Lennon millions; how much did he lose in the years 1976-1979? Or in the record deal for Double Fantasy, for example. They went with Geffen, a smaller, new label, because he was the only record company executive who would deal with Yoko only. And it was only Lennon’s murder that turned that business venture into a commercial success.
@LeighAnn wrote: “I think John beating up Bob Wooler was homophobic and despicable. Just like I think Bob Wooler implying gay connotations to John going on holidays with Brian is homophobic on his part.”
Thought I heard somewhere that Bob Wooler was gay. Not that gay men can’t be homophobic. I wonder if there is any truth to the theory that the real reason John beat up Wooler was because he made a pass at him. Maybe Wooler was the last straw, but John was getting plenty of guff from other people about the Spain trip with Epstein and he didn’t fly off the handle like that. Speaking of Wooler, he actually compared John and Paul to the infamous Leopold and Loeb, who kidnapped and killed a 14-year-old kid for the thrill of it or because they felt superior. And yes, gay lovers. Don’t shoot the messenger, please. The quote is from Lewisohn’s book, I believe.
Cynthia’s line about how John “only hit her once” is well-quoted, and she’s a primary source for her own life, so there is nothing saying she can’t be believed. But it’s hard to say, because even Cynthia isn’t 100% reliable. She swore that John was 100% heterosexual, but there are several accounts from not even Brian Epstein that he wasn’t 100% into only women.
As for Yoko, well, Goldman IIRC seemed pretty clear that John and Yoko’s early relationship had been somewhat abusive. Peter Brown and Magic Alex reported that there was a great deal of hitting going on during John and Yoko’s Greek yacht trip (not the one with the Beatles, obviously). Also, I thought that Sean discussed his father’s rages at one point … anybody have a link? Anyway, the point is, these sources or stories may also be suspect. But once there’s a clear pattern of discussion about John’s hitting, even from himself, then NOT believing it is harder.
FWIW, there were some nasty rumors about Paul coming out around the time of his divorce from Heather Mills. I did a little internetting and apparently Paul bought the Peter Cox tapes. Hmm. I wonder if it was him or Yoko that bought the “explosive audio diary of John and Yoko’s sex histories” as well?
Sean says in Phillip Norman’s biography I believe that John yelled at him for doing something bad so loud it hurt his ear drum he started crying, causing John to get upset and start hugging and doting on him. Or something along those lines.
Probably a terrible thing to do to a little kid but John wouldn’t be the only parent in the world who has done something harsh or had a snapped reaction in a moment of temper with their child. Kids are hard. As many parents are finding out being stuck at home all day with them. That’s not an excuse to hit your kids but Sean wouldn’t he the first kid to be screamed at or smacked.
@Leigh Ann – I’m sorry, but this comment is dangerously wrong.
Victim blaming is always unacceptable, but you are talking about a 5 year old child here.
Sean told Phillip Norman that John put him in hospital by screaming at him so hard that his ear drum burst. I don’t believe you can burst someone’s ear drum by screaming at them (though I might be wrong), so I seriously doubt whether that was the full story.
You are right that children can be hard work. I would know, I’ve got four of them. But it is never OK to take out your frustration on a child in that way.
John did some terrible things. He was a very damaged person, and I absolutely believe that there were times when he was unable to control his actions. But it is absolutely wrong to make excuses for the way in which he treated his children.
LeighAnn, I don’t think it’s normal to yell at your child so loudly they have to go to the hospital, nor do I think there’s any reason to justify or excuse such abuse. “Probably a terrible thing to do”?
I don’t want to misunderstand the point of your comment; would you mind telling me what it was?
I mean I find it ironic that caring about victim blaming is important when validating proof of John’s abusive behaviour but not when inferring or out right saying that Yoko sends thugs to threaten and bribe people, that her choice of public nudity invalidates her feelings of depression and suicide over someone writing a book that’s awful and racist towards her, implying no one should care about her when she dies the way everyone will be devastated when Paul dies.
That we take Sean at his word about about John, but not Cynthia? Or selectively overlooking the part of Sean’s words where he said John felt completely awful about it? Or everything else Sean’s said about his father?
No I don’t think it’s okay to scream at a child so loudly it hurts their ear drum. Certainly not to the point they need to go to a doctor. Thankfully we have evolved to a place where it’s not socially acceptable to smack or yell at your children the way it was even 20 years ago and when I have children I would like to believe I will be the kind of parent who won’t lose their temper.
But until knowing more then an anecdote I don’t know that I take this one incident as proof John was abusive towards his children.
@LeighAnn, I’ve taken a lot of time engaging with your comments in a nuanced and (I hope) respectful way. I’m frustrated that you distill them to things like “her choice of public nudity invalidates her feelings of depression and suicide over someone writing a book that’s awful and racist towards her, implying no one should care about her when she dies the way everyone will be devastated when Paul dies.”
First, whoever said “no one should care about her when she dies”? That’s your implication, not mine. And second, “invalidate” is your word, not mine. You’re getting mad at *your version* of what I wrote, which is like the Internet’s National Sport, but let’s not. Let’s engage in good faith.
Yoko’s use of nudity (and gore) to sell record albums doesn’t invalidate her (stated) feelings about why she didn’t sue Albert Goldman, but it does show something about her–I’m not going to use your word “character,” because there’s a value judgment in that, and as I specifically said, I’m not judging her morally. What I’m trying to do is ascertain whether her squeamishness or frailty in regards to public perception is authentic, or just a pose Yoko pulled in 1988 to get sympathy.
The same woman who, in 1968, posed for Two Virgins with a Beatle and agreed to sell the Bag One lithographs in 1969 is a person with an uncommonly high tolerance for public scrutiny and embarrassment. So, the likelihood of Yoko actually being suicidal over Goldman’s book–given that she’d already commodified herself for public consumption in the most provocative, likely-to-cause-censure ways in 1968 and 1969–is IMHO unlikely. YMMV, but my conclusion is a respectful one, arrived at respectfully.
Now, there is an issue that she’s out of control with Goldman; and you could say that feeling out of control might indeed make her feel suicidal. But that’s not about the content, that’s about who’s in charge. Yoko is in charge with Two Virgins (comfortable), and she’s not with Goldman’s book (uncomfortable). That makes sense and that reading fits with the Yoko we know. But that’s not what was being said in 1988. What was being said was that Yoko would’ve sued, and should’ve sued, but Goldman’s book was so mean and hurtful that it gave her the vapors, and a whole bunch of powerful man (like Wenner) rushed to her defense. That’s pure patriarchy. Yoko takes feminist stances when it serves her; then turns into the perfect flower of Victorian womanhood when it suits her. That says to me that there’s something fundamentally manipulative and artificial about her public persona. Which is OK; I don’t expect someone in her position to be telling me the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
But Yoko fans do.
They want it both ways. They want their heroine to get all the feminist asskicker credit for being “provocative,” but then rush to her defense whenever she’s been wronged by Big Bad Paul or Big Bad John or Big Bad anybody really. This is their right, and it’s Yoko’s right to keep acting like a victim. But this dynamic is neither fair nor helpful if you’re trying to understand her.
I agree that celebrity women, or any other woman should be able to show their vulvas without comment; it’s their body. But showing your vulva, especially in 1968, standing next to your Beatle lover on his way to divorcing the mother of his children, is something DESIGNED to arouse comment. It was DESIGNED to provoke. And being provocative, as a man or woman, isn’t a neutral act; it’s a kind of aggression, a kind of forcing. Sometimes, the provocation is necessary and salutary…and sometimes it’s just publicity, as in the case of “Two Virgins,” a LP of forgettable experimental music; or Bag One, a set of rather poorly drawn dirty lithographs which I loved when I was 12. And when the provocation is just promotional, as much–not all, but much–of Yoko’s provocation has been, it’s B.S. for her to then be hurt, so terribly hurt when someone else writes a tell-all. It’s all showbiz, as John would say.
I’m not saying Yoko can’t pose naked, then or now, or she can’t put her husband’s specs on another album cover. But the person who does those things is leaving traces of who they are as a person, and that is germane when trying to judge the question of her reaction to Goldman. People have a right to have opinions about Yoko–even negative ones!–without being dismissed, and Yoko fans endlessly dismiss legitimate criticism of their heroine. Why? Lots of reasons. But what is lost here is what’s being weaponized: any feeling person thinks what happened to her husband was terrible. We all wish it hadn’t happened. But if she’s a truly important figure, she can be criticized fairly. That’s the price of being an important figure.
As to Seaman: consider for a second that John actually did want Fred to have that stuff. Just consider it. It’s possible, right? Now how does that shift what you’ve been told?
I’m talked out on all this stuff, but have enjoyed it. Take care —
I mean for the record here is another quote Sean gave to Rolling Stone:
“What are your earliest memories of your father? A couple of years ago, you said that you remember more about your life from ages two to five than about your teenage years.
That’s really true. I think the event of my father’s death forced me to cling on to those memories harder than I would any other memory. It was such a shock that it etched in stone those few events I had.
have a lot of memories of just talking with him, hanging out and watching TV. Saying “Good night” to me was an intimate moment. It was just me and him. There was something so soothing about his voice. And he did this really cute thing: He would flick the lights on and off in rhythm to whatever he would say. He would say, “Good night, Sean” and the lights would go [makes clicking noise]. It just made me feel so cozy.
I remember him playing guitar. I don’t remember any specific songs. I remember watching The Muppet Show with him. He loved The Muppet Show. And he would always turn the TV off during the commercials I would go, “Dad, we’re going to miss some of it.” And he would go, “No, we’re not.” He’d wait two minutes, then put the TV back on. He told me that anything you ever see on a commercial is a lie.
So I wasn’t allowed to watch commercials. I wasn’t allowed to eat refined sugar. I wasn’t allowed to eat dairy. I grew up completely macrobiotic. The sweetest thing I had were these little dried fish, these Japanese fish. That’s what he would give me as candy. The first time I had a Coca-Cola was years after he died.
It sounds like you were raised on bird food.
My dad was really strict that way. In fact, when you asked about the memories, I didn’t want to say it, but I have some less than happy memories, too [laughs nervously]. Of him screaming at me, you know? He definitely had a violent temper. He would get angry sometimes. And when he did, that voice that was soothing would become like a knife.
But it must have been hard for him to suddenly become a responsible parent after so many years of footloose, indulgent pop-star living.
I think it was also hard for him to become a sensitive monogamist. Because he was a macho Liverpudlian. I think my mom really tamed him. Look at the “lost weekend” in L.A. He was a macho pig in lots of ways, and he knew it. I think his greatest accomplishment was recognizing that he was a macho asshole and trying to stop it.
Like that song, “Cool chick baby” [a line from “Death of Samantha,” on Yoko Ono’s 1973 album, Approximately Infinite Universe]. That’s all about him having sex with some girl at a party where my mom was. When I think back on those events, and hear about them, I think of my dad as being a huge asshole. And the only thing that made it OK was that he could admit it. That was his saving grace. He tried to overcome it.
I don’t want people to think I’m being disrespectful. But then again, he’s my dad, and I know better than they do, man. I know that he was a great guy. But he was also an asshole in a lot of ways. There’s no question about it.“
@LeighAnn – I’ve worked with social services. I’ve also got four kids. Take this as a small piece of advice: if you ever have kids, do not think that you could ever make an excuse for putting one of them in hospital. Believe me, that child WILL be removed from your care, and rightly so.
This one incident is absolute proof that John was abusive towards his children. You are terribly, terribly naive if you believe otherwise.
The worst abusers in the world love their kids, @LeighAnn. And their kids also love them.
None of what you’ve quoted proves anything.
@Kristy, I’m torn about Cynthia. On the one hand, she’s absolutely a primary source who doesn’t seem to just make things up, the way his second wife does. On the other hand, it seems like she wrestled with the reality of who John Lennon was, quite likely because it was too uncomfortable or downright painful for her to confront, especially in public. And it does seem like she was willfully blind to a lot while they were married — for example, the heterosexuality stuff, or even his many affairs with women. And while not poor, she needed to be mindful of saying things that could affect her financially by putting Beatles fans off her books, etc. Is it possible John only hit her the one time, and was chastened? Of course. I don’t think Lennon was a monster. But I also know he struggled mightily with self-control, with his rage, with violence, and with the ways that speed, alcohol, etc. affected those things — much of this because he said so.
As for Sean’s statements, this is what I could find after just a tiny bit of searching: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sean-lennon-opens-up-abou_n_128028. I think he’s also said something about John kicking him, but I don’t remember where or when. Or perhaps it’s in a book and not from Sean directly. In any event, if Lennon couldn’t even control himself at age 38-39 with the son he apparently adored, how sure should we be that he controlled himself at 22 or 23 with a wife he was apparently lukewarm about? To be clear, this isn’t from a Goldman-esque desire to tear Lennon down. But not making an effort to know who Lennon was as a person is critical to understanding what he actually achieved.
What are the Peter Cox tapes? I see that they’re tapes made with Linda? Are these the tapes in which Linda allegedly talks about their marriage? I recall the rumors from Heather. And while I believe her about as much as I believe Yoko, look. I wouldn’t be surprised. All of them came from the same time and place. Violence and abuse was both more common and more tolerated. They’ve said as much in interviews.
@Michael B– I gather Peter Cox was a friend of Linda’s who was in the literary world and was working with her on a vegetarian cookbook. He apparently taped a bunch of their conversations wherein Linda opened up about the stresses of being Paul McCartney’s wife, both because of their professional life and his personal traits. I think Heather Mills was threatening to use Cox’s tapes during her divorce proceedings from Paul.
As for Cynthia, I’m just now reading “The Search for John Lennon” by Lesley-Ann Jones, and she had extensive interviews with Cynthia, originally to help her rewrite “A Twist of Lennon” to tell more of the truth, but their book went nowhere and then Cynthia went and published “John.” Jones calls out Cynthia’s selective memory a couple of times because things Cynthia told her were then completely changed by the time of “John” (i.e., Cynthia told Jones that she’d never been invited to Alma Cogan’s parties and moaned about it, but in “John,” Cynthia describes the parties in some detail that she’d been invited to often). Jones is nice about it, though, saying sometimes that the years will do wonders for one’s memory.
So far, the book is totally redonkulous in kind of a fun way. Jones relies heavily on women’s testimony, which I like, just as I want to support women Beatles writers, and she interviewed people I’ve yet to see quoted in John/Beatles books. But her prose is so purple it’s royal, she uses a lot of song lyrics and bad puns badly, and she accepts a lot of events that have been pretty much disproven elsewhere. Apropos to a conversation above, however, she is pretty candid about instances when her subjects behaved shittily. I mean, I don’t think John was a monster, and Jones doesn’t, either. And of course his friends loved him no matter what, because they were childhood buddies and went through a lot together. Also, he’s dead — I mean, how else would you talk about your friend who died, even if he was a jerk? But it’s interesting that in Jones’s book, so far about 75% of “how I knew John” stories boil down to, “man, John was a total asshole! He was a dick to me a lot and you never knew which John you were gonna get! Man, I loved that guy!” All kinds of stuff about how it was all a surface/defense issue for John, of course.
Is Peter Cox the friend of Linda’s who noted, among other things, how odd it was that Paul still spoke about John in the present tense? Or was that Danny Fields? By the way, Paul actually outed John in an interview with Fields:
PAUL: But this is relevant in a way. OK, Brian was a lovable guy. And John was sort of more, you know, very middle class, and Brian was middle class, and they could relate to each other.
FIELDS: As opposed to working class – John, I mean?
PAUL: Yeah, as opposed to working class. So they would kind of know about this, what’s expected of them, a little above people, a little superior. Then Brian invited him to come away to Spain. A couple of the guys whom we knew were sort of gay, with a bit of money, were going to Spain. I think the rest of us were a little peeved not to be invited, because somebody was getting a free holiday here.”
– Danny Fields – Linda McCartney, 2000
Also Yoko did want to sue Albert Goldman for libel but her lawyers advised her that if she sued she risked drawing more attention to the book. Plus considering a lot of people who were close to John or Goldman wrote about in the book came out and said the story either mischaracterised or outright lied Yoko probably felt that did the job of undermining the book without having to pay millions in lawyer fees. So I don’t think her not suing is an admission of guilt. Plus she would only be able to sue for libel on her and not John as I believe there’s something under law about how you can’t sue for libel of the dead. She did sue successfully sue Fred Seaman.
@LeighAnn, maaaaaybe…but do you see how convenient that is? Everybody already knew about the book. Rolling Stone had done a cover story on it. I can tell you: the publicity was huge.
What Yoko didn’t want was testimony under oath, discovery, etc. And that was her right…but it does suggest that J&Y had a ton of authentically dirty laundry. As anyone in their position does.
As to people recanting interviews: do you not think a billionaire could hire a lawyer who could hire a guy who could make a phone call, or talk to you in a parking lot? After four years of President Trump, I would think this would be common knowledge. In our society, billionaires do whatever the hell they want.
BTW, Seaman’s goose was cooked the moment he didn’t have a signed, notarized statement from John Lennon gifting him those diaries. That doesn’t mean John didn’t give them to him; it just means that it was Fred’s word against Yoko’s, and one party has topflight representation and can string it out forever, and the other doesn’t and can’t. This doesn’t mean Fred didn’t steal them, but it means that, realistically, it doesn’t matter if he did or not.
That is the reason Yoko gave. She also said the book briefly made her contemplate suicide and felt like she was being punched 8000 times in the stomach but I’m sure that doesn’t count for much either.
Saying that she didn’t want to be cross examined and testify could be true, could not be but it is conjecture.
Just like it’s total conjecture that Yoko was going around paying thugs to pressure people to recant or to call Goldmans book trash. I mean considering there were a lot of famous and independently wealthy people included in that list Im curious how much Yoko had to pay or threaten people.
Also it does seem like you view Fred Seaman as something of a hero or underdog in this story but it wasn’t a couple of diaries he stole. It’s was cartons of stuff, private videos, letters, personals writings, photos etc. And when he gave some of it back after his arrest he also gave them one of his diaries by mistake which had notes on his plan to alter Johns diaries to make it seem like John wanted him to have them and to be his biographer. And it wasn’t even Yoko who is solely responsible for Fred getting arrested. It was his coconspirator who turned him in. Yoko didn’t even realise half the stuff that went missing was missing.
Also Yoko isn’t a billionaire (neither is Paul despite some outlets referring to him as such) at the time of Johns death his net worth was estimated to be $150 million and Yoko’s current net worth is estimated at $600 million. Still an insane amount of money mind you.
But net worth is also calculated to include property, land, possessions like cars and art, stock, bonds and investments etc not just what they have in their bank. And a lot of evaluation of net worth is from educated guess work.
@LeighAnn, I KNOW that’s the reason Yoko gave, but to me, it doesn’t pass the sniff test. Does she seem like a sentimental, easily hurt person to you? What other times has she demonstrated that in public? This is a woman completely comfortable with posing nude, selling lithographs of her receiving cunnilingus, and so forth — things that mark her clearly to me not as an immoral person, but as one who is actually quite unsentimental about putting herself in the public eye. So now she’s “considering suicide” over an unflattering portrait in a tabloid-y book? Doesn’t add up to me. What I think she didn’t like was SOMEONE ELSE telling, and profiting from, her secrets. She’s perfectly happy to dish the dish–or flash the front-bottom–if she’s making money or getting famous from it, and that is her right, and I like her more for it. But it’s not her right to own the truth, control what the public knows, and chase off anybody else trying to find things out.
You clearly perceive it differently. But what I’m trying to do here is get your sniffer more sharp — not that you agree with me, necessarily, but that you start building an idea of these people that goes well beyond their public personas and statements. There’s absolutely no reason, none, to take Yoko’s word in this case; and a lot of reasons not to.
“Just like it’s total conjecture”
“Total conjecture” meaning, the guys she hired to harass Seaman didn’t go on TV and admit it? To whom and for what? Once again: is it so very unlikely that a woman with a mania for information control/image management would go to extreme lengths to control the St. John narrative? Is Fred lying? Possibly; but what does he gain? He’s still going to go to court and lose. He knew that.
Where I part ways with most Yoko fans isn’t that Yoko isn’t an interesting artist who has suffered a lot of unfair press — I think that’s so. But I don’t think she’s a victim; I think she’s a powerful rich celebrity who plays by powerful rich celebrity rules. And in my reading of that world, there’s a whole class of people who do unsavory things for powerful rich celebrities–think Michael Cohen. Furthermore, I was alive to witness the second biggest change wrought by Lennon’s murder, which was people felt (and feel) terrible for Yoko. Overnight, she went from a cultural joke to a figure of some reverence, a status she retains today. With me, as well. But revering her and wishing her well doesn’t impact my belief she got up to all sorts of malign nonsense because she’s a rich hardass who you do not mess with. YMMV.
“Also it does seem like you view Fred Seaman as something of a hero”
I do not view Fred Seaman as anything like a hero, and please don’t characterize my arguments like that. He is/was most definitely the underdog, as any normal person is when battling one of the super-rich. I view Fred, whom I do not know, as the assistant to a very powerful, very stoned, parsimonious, not reliable pair of bosses. I have seen someone do a similar job and, trust me, it’s horrible. Also, it would be perfectly in character for John to “will” his diaries to Fred, especially if he were mad at Yoko at that moment and wanted to blow up her life at some future moment. And Fred, at 26 or whatever he was, would be unsophisticated enough to think that he could take diaries and other things from the Dakota and say, “Well, John said…”
I also think it’s possible that Fred was simply a disgruntled employee (with terrible bosses) who stole the diaries. Stealing’s a crime, of course, but I’m wary of any Beatle/Lennon fans who are more concerned about Yoko’s supposed property, than they are about finding out important information about the Dakota years, which were 12% of Lennon’s entire life and central to understanding an important historical figure. I’m not saying that’s you, but if it is you, you might reconsider. Shouldn’t Yoko be okay with people knowing the truth, whatever it was? Isn’t that the moral position, not “Gimme those back and if you don’t I’ll have you thrown in jail”? And if Yoko’s such a victim, so soft-hearted as to not sue Goldman because of hurt feelings, how come she’s such a tough cookie with Seaman? Is it because she’s a big freakin’ bully? DUH! Name me a super-rich person who isn’t a bully sometimes! That’s the whole POINT of being super-rich! Yoko fans never address any of this side of Yoko, and talk about her like she’s some space-cadet conceptual artist living in Hoboken. Either she’s good at business and tough as shit, or she’s the Japanese Art Elf. I think she’s much more the former than the latter.
“he also gave them one of his diaries by mistake which had notes on his plan to alter Johns diaries to make it seem like John wanted him to have them and to be his biographer”
OH JESUS CHRIST. I never heard this but @LeighAnn, do you not see how fishy that is? “…when returning the stolen property he also by mistake gave them a document that said ‘I totally stole this and my planned excuse was a lie’.” This is exactly the kind of bullshit that should make you QUESTION Yoko’s motives, not believe them!
According to this article, she’s got assets over a billion; but I was remembering something I’d read several years ago which said she and Paul were equally wealthy, at around a billion each. But your figure may be right; for “billionaire” read, “someone who has more money than they can ever spend.” I wonder if she was listed in the Panama Papers? Anyway, I had no idea she was so frail; I hope she’s doing better now.
@Michael – I listened to a very interesting interview with Robert Rosen on a podcast a few months ago. It was extremely eye opening.
Apparently, he and Fred had a publisher for the diaries lined up, and not only was Julian (and I would assume, Cynthia) aware of what they were doing, Rosen actually spent time with Julian and Ringo’s oldest son in the UK.
Fred may have ended up at the top of Yoko’s shit list, but Julian knew exactly what was going on. That tells me that Fred wasn’t lying when he said John asked him to give the diaries to Julian.
Robert Rosen was also the guy who turned Fred in for stealing and presumably got away with being charged unlike Fred because of that fact. And he didn’t turn him in for solely benevolent reasons but because he felt Fred was trying to cut him out of their potential pay day from what ever book deal they were looking to get. Robert Rosen is hardly an innocent party
@LeighAnn – That’s true, but my point was that Julian knew Fred/Robert Rosen had the diaries and was working with them.
What happened later between Robert Rosen and Fred Seaman has no relevance to the point I was making.
Here’s a quote from this article about Fred’s visit to Julian:
“ Seaman, still a trusted aide at the Dakota, is sent by Ono to Wales to visit Julian. She wants Julian, Lennon’s son by his marriage to Cynthia Powell, to have some gifts from his father.
Arriving in Wales, Seaman begins courting Julian. He drops hints of his growing feelings of disillusionment with Yoko. He gives him the gifts—and, as a personal token, a copy of the cassette of John’s final songs recorded in Bermuda. Seaman’s journals suggest that his aim is to draw Julian into the plan, to persuade him to claim he knew of his father’s diaries and that Lennon intended his eldest son, not Ono, to be the guardian of the diaries. Julian knows nothing of this but is thrilled at the “gifts.””
@LeighAnn, a cursory look at Vicki Sheff (yes, wife and collaborator of David Sheff, who conducted Playboy’s 1980 J&Y interview, perhaps with Vicki’s uncredited help?) suggests that she specializes in celebrity profiles. In other words, not someone who is going to be unbiased in this matter, for lots of reasons that I don’t have time to get into this morning. She could be right, or wrong, but you should be skeptical when a journalist in her line of work writes something useful to a celebrity. Celebrity, and money, and power–very few people can withstand it.
Yeah, I’ve never had much use for Robert Rosen. He’s like Seaman without access, and Seaman’s proximity is the only reason we should listen to him about Lennon.
Agree. I think Rosen more of a slimy weasel then Fred. He didn’t partake in the actually theft it self but he was happy to financially benefit from it, and then turn on Fred once Fred cut him off leaving him to take on all culpability.
The Cynthia thing is a good example of the same PR softening that happens with the drugs: it’s not possible to pretend John never hit (or never used heroin) because *he admitted to it* and so did Cynthia. So what can you do? Well, you front-face it: you propagate a watered-down version of the truth that’s more palatable (John did once but reformed and learned his lesson), thereby dealing with the unpleasant facts without delving too deeply into what else is behind that door. But we have hard evidence that John beat the shit out of Bob Wooler, and multiple sources saying he kicked Stu, and multiple sources saying he physically abused May Pang. So are we to believe he slapped Cynthia once and never touched Yoko? Perhaps, but that’s not how human beings usually work, right? And as Mike points out, what do these people have to gain from going public with stories of abuse? Fans hate them, Rolling Stone blacklists them, and if you’re Fred Seaman, some hired goons diplomatically explain to you the consequences of having your ass sewn to your face.
The only person I seen claim John kicked Stu in head is Stu’s sister who said Stu told her that before he died. If there’s other sources my wrong, but from what I can see that story came from her and came as a sensational aspect of her own book on John and Stu decades later.
I have heard multiple people say or write about the fact that John loved Stu and vice versa and they probably had a closer relationship and friendship then even he had with Paul.
@LeighAnn – Forgive me, I seem to be arguing with all your comments, but what do you mean by ‘the only person’?
Stuart’s SISTER made this claim, not some random person on the internet. One would expect that she was ‘the only person’ to make the claim because she was the only person her BROTHER confided in.
Or are we supposed to also dismiss her as an ‘unreliable source’ because her claim is unpalatable?
Pauline Sutcliffe also claimed that John and Stu had a sexual relationship and that Paul was jealous of Stu because of it. Do you believe her? Paul was more ruthless with Stu (they came to blows at one point) than anyone else in the group. Philip Norman said something interesting, that if it were not for Paul and Stu’s rivalry, they might have been best friends. Paul himself says they were jealous of John’s other friendships, not least of which was his friendship with Stu. They, meaning Paul. I think George got on well with Stu.
Having once been a teenaged boy, I can confirm that this is completely possible. But Paul’s jealousy isn’t Proof of Sex, btw.
@Michelle – Yes, I do believe her.
She was Stuart’s sister so I think she has a lot more authority than Mark Lewisohn. At least as much as Cynthia or May Pang, and I don’t see anyone dismissing what they had to say.
I think she was very brave to go public with this. Yes, she later retracted some of it, but look at the scorn poured on her on a civilised forum like this. I have no doubt that she received all kinds of death threats for daring to write that book.
Do I think Paul was jealous of Stuart? Course he was. Do I think John kicked Stuart in the head? Why would she make that up? Of course he did.
This is my take as well, fwiw.
@Michael – I agree that Paul’s jealousy isn’t proof of sex. But that’s what Pauline Sutcliffe was hinting at. Maybe you have to British to get that, I’m not sure. It’s very British thing to say one thing but mean another and expect everyone to get it.
Geoff Baker, Paul’s ex-PA wrote a book, which ‘definitely wasn’t about Paul, no way’. But it’s obvious to me from Baker’s YouTube promo that it definitely was about Paul:
The book is called Rock Bottom: A Fanchild’s Revenge. It’s about a bisexual rock star who had an affair with his writing partner, for God’s sake. Short of hitting someone over the head with a sledgehammer, I don’t know how he could have been less subtle.
Pauline Sutcliffe wrote what she dared to write in my opinion, and left it to the reader to fill in the blanks.
…oh lord here comes the torrent of comments…:-)
Every time I think my now nearly absolute lack of interest in this question (did John and Paul have sex, or didn’t they?) can’t become more absolute, it does.
I’m making you a t-shirt
Well, nothing is proof of sex unless someone confesses, announces they’re an item or are caught in the act. Paul can hint as much as he likes but the burden of proof is on us.
You can love someone deeply — they can be your best friend ever, someone you would die for — and you could still fly off the handle and kick them. In fact, if you’re a person who flies off the handle, they’re more likely to be the person you kick. Sad but true.
Once again, with Pauline Sutcliffe: who is she trying to sell books to, with that comment? The legions of people who hate John Lennon but still want to buy books about him? A gauzy John/Stu romance is a much, much, MUCH more marketable thing. Beatle dirt, with a few exceptions, doesn’t sell as well as hagiography.
The evolution of Stu Sutcliffe history-telling is an interesting one. I understand that Stu’s family wanted him to be more well-remembered and to give more focus on his art and his influence on the Beatles. But there are a few authors (Larry Kane is one) who want to beatify Stu and make like he was John’s one true soulmate. Basically, the way I see it, he was like one of those intense art-school friendships that you have, and he was around for what, two, three years? Not his fault that he died, of course, but the Saint Soulmate Stu story is one that I find wearying sometimes. I suspect any emphasis that Yoko has placed on Stu is rooted in the artist connection, as well as having Stu be no threat to her or her legacy ’cause he’s been dead since 1962. But that’s me, being suspicious.
I did read Pauline Sutcliffe’s book. She’s a therapist herself and she swore John kicked the shit out of Stu but she doesn’t blame John and feels sorry for them both. I mean, they were kids. Interestingly, she claims Stu told her Paul was a witness to the fight, but when asked Paul doesn’t remember a thing (which tells us nothing). Lewisohn did mention her theory about Stu’s head in his footnotes to the Tune In Extended Edition, and notes that she had vehemently denied John harming Stu several years before she then claimed that the fight had taken place. Another case of selective memory?
Like MG says, what would be the point of making it up? Not selling a book. John + Stu kissing in a tree would be a much more lucrative selling point for a Beatles book than John stomping Stu into the street. Anyway, I think Pauline’s book is worth a read for several interesting notes, and not only for the Stu’s artwork stuff. She does a bit of psychoanalysis of the teenage rivalries and band dynamics and also of Astrid, and recounts several meetings/interviews she had with Beatles-adjacent people.
“But there are a few authors (Larry Kane is one) who want to beatify Stu… he was around for what, two, three years? Not his fault that he died, of course, but the Saint Soulmate Stu story is one that I find wearying sometimes.”
I feel the same about JFK. Not sure what he did to be regarded as one of our greatest presidents. His brother Robert did more for civil rights, for example, as did his successor.
@Michelle, I’ve spent many years reading about JFK, and I can tell you one thing he did: saved the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The apparatus of the American military was pushing hard for nuclear war, and it’s unlikely that either Nixon (had he been elected) or LBJ would’ve resisted them. JFK did, and that took HUGE courage, especially in light of the Vienna conference and the Bay of Pigs, both in 1961. The generals thought Kennedy was weak on Russia, and told him to his face. During the CMC, the Joint Chiefs were pressuring him to do a first-strike; he and RFK said “absolutely not.”
To give you an idea of how out-of-control the military was in October 1962, the CIA Station in Miami, headed by David Atlee Phillips, was putting agents into Cuba burning crops during the Crisis itself, trying to spark a war. This was against JFK’s direct orders, and unbeknownst to him. (It was revealed later, in a document dump.)
So, whatever JFK’s personal flaws–and he had some obvious ones–he saved the world. He also sparked the Apollo program, passed the Test Ban Treaty, and laid the beginnings of detente with the USSR.
As far as JFK and civil rights, it’s impossible to split off LBJ’s successes from JFK — JFK went on TV in the summer of ’63 and affirmed the civil rights movement in a way no other President had, then endured the hatred for that. Not for nothing was the guy killed in the South. LBJ used the national grief over JFK’s murder to twist arms and get the Civil Rights Act, and Voting Rights Act; LBJ’s accomplishments, probably something Kennedy couldn’t have done, but they wouldn’t have happened without what Kennedy did first. JFK was slow on civil rights, but he got there, and we just can’t say what he would’ve done had he lived.
Even Vietnam, his big black eye, is murky. Most conventional historians say that he was hawkish, but these are the same historians who used to say he ordered the murder of Diem (he did not, and was horrified by it, both morally and strategically). JFK was making movements towards withdrawal, specifically NSAM 263, which to me is a clear indication of drawdown until November 1964, then removal. Kennedy had been a journalist and visited Vietnam in the early 50s; he saw the French in their quagmire, and to me it’s unlikely he would’ve willingly put the US in the same position. But he had a tiger by the ears in the military and intelligence communities, and had to move slowly or he wouldn’t get reeelected.
Was JFK one of our greatest Presidents? By what he did, he was solidly in the top 20; and what he did suggested more good things to come; it wasn’t his fault he got shot a year early. Anybody who dismisses JFK as hype, a fake and a playboy, you can just say, “Yeah but he saved the world.” No other President, not Roosevelt, not Reagan, not Lincoln or Washington, ever had that resting on their shoulders, and JFK came through.
I’ve been schooled. Thanks @Michael for the history lesson. I was aware of his space progam and the Cuban Missile Crisis. You are right – he was more than just immense potential.
Hope it was interesting! There’s really quite a bit to the guy, apart from the compulsive sexual behavior.
@kristy Have you read John and Stu’s letters the wrote each other? They were pretty deep and confessional.
There’s a book I think by Hunter Davies (?) I read them in, where Yoko and John’s friends and family gave him copies of letters notes and writings to publish in chronological order of his life. It was really interesting.
That being said it’s been a while since I’ve read it but I do seem to recall an anecdote I think from Norman’s biography where he quotes John talking about how he and Paul use to sometimes mock or ignore/leave out Stu on purpose just for laughs. So I do think there was a pendulum swing of loyalties and rivalries between the group in those close confined early days.
I think for me I find the whole why would people selling a biography exaggerate, sensationalise or outright fabricate elements what’s in it for them argument odd? When to me it seems pretty obvious what’s in it for them. Book sales.
Isn’t the goal of any biography when it comes out generating as many headlines as possible to maximise publicity. Generally the way to achieve that is through having some headline grabbing scandal.
I’m not saying that every biographer/biography is dishonest this but I don’t buy that publishers pay biographers big advances- I read Albert Goldman allegedly was paid $1 million as an advance for Johns book- only to write happy book and its only their historian integrity that compels them to write the opposite.
I mean as you’ve said Pauline’s book actually is more interesting upon reading (and I must admit you’ve got me intrigued to read it now) then that one element of John kicking Stu, and yet that and the John and Stu were lovers is the two things that probably define Paulines book in Beatle fans minds because that is what got her headlines. Like the saying about the car crash you can’t look away from, media sells scandal far more often and successfully then positivity.
@LeighAnn, I have worked in book and magazine publishing for 30 years and sold an IMMENSE number of books for 25 publishers worldwide. Sensational bios only work when it’s about someone the reader doesn’t like, and hate-reading isn’t a thing if you’re paying actual money for a book. “Yes, please! Here is $20 so I can read about someone I hate.” Or, “Here is $20 so I can read that someone I love was actually a monster.”
Publicity doesn’t sell books to a fan-base; positive word-of-mouth does. I was 17 when Goldman’s book came out; a huge Beatles and Lennon fan. I never read it. I finally read it in 2002, when I found a copy at someone’s house during a party.
There is much, much, MUCH more money, and much, much, MUCH less risk, in books that are positive about the Beatles. For example: Philip Norman sold many, many more books than Peter Brown, and Norman’s book cost a lot less to produce because there was less vetting.
Please for the love of god, everyone believe me on this so I can stop typing it in the comments. It is how publishing works.
This makes me want to read Pauline’s book; or better yet, meet Pauline! Thanks @Kristy!
Sadly, Pauline passed away in 2019. She did seem like a cool lady. I like how she took a psychoanylitic approach to the Beatles. I wish more authors would.
Wow, didn’t notice until it was posted that I butchered the spelling of psychoanalytic.
Sort of off topic on topic I kind of oddly love this photo of John Lennon with all Yoko’s Japanese Family:
I think there is something precious about it.
That is WONDERFUL. Thank you!
That’s what John Lennon needed—contact within normal human groups, where he was just another human.
I just love the imagery of John smiling all happily in the centre looking like a giant with all these straight faced tiny Japanese. There’s just something so charming. Plus I also appreciate when you see how traditional Yoko’s family is how radical she must have been to her family for the direction she decided to take.
I 100% agree! (I think I posted this before, but it’s just so wonderful.)
While we’re on the subject of Yoko and rarely seen pics, here she is at Sarah Lawrence College. Little did anyone know that in the future she would become persona non grata: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/6c/e2/cd/6ce2cdf721044491481d7abfc40b0a60.jpg
Thanks for sharing! I didn’t realise she went to an American college.
Another of baby Yoko:
Awww, how cute. I never saw that one before. Yes, and a fun fact about that is Linda also went to Sarah Lawrence – though not at the same time as Yoko, of course. Many may not be aware that Yoko was a classically trained pianist. Here’s another pic: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/be/d7/fd/bed7fdb784cb6670917396d5dff279a8.jpg
@Michelle, that is an often repeated error in Linda’s bio – and quite telling that nearly every authors uses it without fact checking, kinda shows how serious they are….
Anyway, Linda went to Vermont college, not Sarah Lawrence.
@Michael Bleicher, it was never suggested by Mr Cox that Linda told him about having been hit by Paul or abused otherwise. The big revelation was just that they argued ocassionally, and she allegedly felt caged in during the marriage, stuff like that. But the Daily Mail made a big deal of that and around the same time Heather Mills accused Paul of having abused her physically and somehow the two things got mashed together forever in people’s memories.
That quote always is hauled out in order to prove that Paul was unbearable in 1968, as if Derek Taylor was an objective witness. But he was one of the guys famous for overspending and treating Apple as his country club, while Paul tried to save the company, looking for ways to cut the money bleeding. And Taylor himself was a heavy drug user and either an alcoholic already or at least on his way. Not saying McCartney was great to deal with at that point, but there are always two sides to a story…
I feel uncomfortable with Yoko’s choice to show nudity implying anything about her character or meaning she is not allowed to not be okay with someone writing harsh and pretty racist things about her in a book. Or that her exhibitionism invalidates her feelings or need for privacy. I feel like that’s a bad take that gets used against a lot of celebrity women.
Also I don’t see how Yoko suing Fred makes her a bully. When Fred was arrested part of the terms of his arrest was to turn over all the possessions he stole. However some photos of John Yoko and Sean he kept and used in his book, claiming that as they were taken on his camera he had rightful copyright. Yoko sued based on the employment contract Fred signed the photos were under Yoko’s rightful ownership, and that Fred Seaman breached his employment contract in particular the confidentiality agreement.
Then as part of his 2002 settlement he had a court order that he would not give interviews or take actions that cash in on the Lennons. But then last year he gave an interview about John and Yoko, allegedly in a room full of John memorabilia, and was looking to reissue his book- which was in breach of his court order. Yoko is within her legal rights to sue.
Also here’s at least one article that mentions Fred handing over a diary with his plans to alter Johns diary in the NYT.
“ Such contradictions have raised questions about the author’s sources. Several crucial statements come to Mr. Goldman third or fourth hand. Others come from disgruntled former employees and members of the Lennon circle.
For example, one of Mr. Goldman’s major sources is Fred Seaman, an assistant to the Lennons who in 1983 pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the theft of Lennon’s diaries and other personal effects. When he was apprehended and compelled to return Lennon’s materials, Mr. Seaman provided one of his own journals, in which he wrote of a plan to doctor Lennon’s diaries to make it seem as though Lennon wanted Mr. Seaman to be his official biographer.”
Everyone, I’m going to barge in here and institute a pause on commenting about allegations of physical abuse. I’d ask everyone to keep in mind that:
There’s a lot we don’t know — both about the Beatles and their families, and about the other people commenting on this blog.
Keeping HD a place that balances open exchange of opinions with civility is important to both Michael and me — and I think to commenters as well.
The past year + has been ROUGH on all of us. My sense is that almost all of us, at some points, are bringing some extra emotion to our comments here.
Fair enough Nancy and agree. I also apologise if any of my comments have been offensive.
Not to me, @LeighAnn, but thanks for being sensitive. We’re all friends here.
@Leigh lAnn: “…sometimes you can even gave periods where you hate your partner. Then it’s either about getting through it till it passes or calling it quits.”
Or as Olivia Harrison said when asked how she managed to stay married to George, “You don’t get divorced .” Between that and weaponizing a lamp to save her husband, she gets my vote for best Beatle wife.
“Cox wrote a cook book with Linda, he taped their conversations for that purpose
Hmm, I know that’s what he said, and it’s an extremely handy explanation, but it’s really hard for me to believe Linda would have knowingly bared her soul and marriage troubles on tape and then just given them away forever. Even if she trusted Cox, why risk them falling into someone else’s hands? Besides which, IMO it would be such a strange move on an emotional level. If I’d made a friend I felt comfortable talking about sensitive private things with, why use a tape recorder when I could talk about it over the phone or in person? When you’re unburdening your soul you usually like to get feedback and comfort in return. It makes way more sense to me that she didn’t know she was being recorded.
But that’s just my opinion. Anything’s possible!
@Annie M, but that is exactly my point – this story about tapes where Linda can be heard bearing her soul is complete bollocks. Yes, he had tapes. And he may have observed her being upset or unhappy occassionally, and she even may have mentioned this to Cox over a cup of tea. But read this article, which is the origin of the persistent story, *carefully* again – there just is not a single quote where Cox actually says that Linda told him anything earthshatteringly private or that he taped those things. The DM quite skillfully built a sensational story around some assumptions and mundane marriage frustrations any couple experiences. And who says Cox was really a close friend? I very much doubt he was, and he does not really claim to have been either, the DM does.
Anyway, here is the link to the article : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-413217/McCartney-marriage-tapes-exclusive–Linda-wanted-leave-Macca.html
You could well be right, @Jesse! I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
I take back some scepticism I had about Peter Doggett. After seeing him in a documentary about the lennon/McCartney song writing partnership he always came off to me like he had slight contempt for John as a musician- at one point calling him a lazy song writer. But I just found this interview he did last year about another book he wrote about John and he seemed to have a lot of respect for John’s work ethic not just within the Beatles but his other artistic accomplishments. I also like what he had to say about Yoko and her partnership with John and handling of his legacy.
Interestingly he is asked directly about John Lennon’s diaries and if we will ever see them and his answer seems to indicate that he hasn’t read his diaries and he said it was unlikely that they would be released as Yoko has had them for decades. So I’m not sure what changed from an interview with a publishing date of May last year to now when he has apparently read them and writing a book about them.
He does mention in the interview about hearing a leaked audio diary from the day after John’s 39th birthday and how depressed he sounded and how refreshing it was to hear him a year later so happy in the studio making music.
Anyway I thought it was a good interview and certainly made me interested in reading his book of John Lennon’s art:
@LeighAnn- “He does mention in the interview about hearing a leaked audio diary from the day after John’s 39th birthday and how depressed he sounded and how refreshing it was to hear him a year later so happy in the studio making music.”
This is a little over a month before John’s 39th birthday, but is this part of the audio diary he was talking about? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko839Ppuq24
Apparently I was actually reading the post on this site about the audio diary and the whole suicide mention was actually John quoting a line from one of Yoko’s songs apparently so I’m starting to question Peter’s characterisation. But yes I believe this is the same audio.
I do remember hearing clips where John starts getting stuck into Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney and it’s not pretty, it’s uncomfortable listening for how bitter he sounds. But then I’ve never believed that John was happy everyday of his life or during his “retirement” then I have believed he was unhappy everyday of his life or during his “retirement”. I’m sure he had his low moments.
“the whole suicide mention was actually John quoting a line from one of Yoko’s songs apparently”:
It was! The song is “Looking Over From My Hotel Window” from Yoko’s “Approximately Infinite Universe” double-LP. So-so album, comparatively lovely song.
(If you can bear listening to something like “Now or Never” from the same record, you may understand what I mean by ‘comparatively’. The words are presumably well-meant, but the parts where she goes “People of America!” make me, at least, cringe, and I think it’s just not a convincing song at all.)
@LeighAnn- “I do remember hearing clips where John starts getting stuck into Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney and it’s not pretty, it’s uncomfortable listening for how bitter he sounds.”
He had a sardonic wit, which can be interpreted as bitter. I mean, you had to laugh when he mentioned Bob’s preachy “Gotta Serve Somebody” and said, “He wants to be a waiter now.”
Lol yeah I thought that was a funnily sarcastic comment.
My impression is it wouldn’t have just been John who would have felt like that. My impression is that all of the 60s rock scene were all on varying levels narcissistic, jealous competitive and threatened by one another to some extent, while still socialising in the same circles.
I grew up with the boy bands and girl acts of the late 90s early 2000s and their obvious competitiveness and attempts to outdo one another.
I think characteristic of the music industry so certainly something I don’t hold against John. Plus I think he recognised that it was kind of sad of him to be hung up on it and was laughing at his own thoughts.
Maybe it’s just uncomfortable because it feels very intrusive to me listening to his inner thoughts, especially when I’m not sure it was something he recorded for others to listen to.
@LeighAnn – He certainly did have his low moments if images like the ones of him and Bowie are anything to go by:
Anyone who looks like that is already halfway dead.
Which brings me back to Lewisohn actually. If I can pull up a photograph like that from the internet in a few seconds, why is he – with his million pound advance – struggling to find evidence of John’s heroin addiction?
Elizabeth, I think Lewisohn’s apparent reluctance to look closely at Lennon’s use of heroin is one instance of the common experience of finding it painful to confront the flaws of someone you care deeply about.
It’s relatable, for sure. But as I said earlier in this thread, if you’re going to write a 3-volume “definitive” biography, you have an ethical obligation to work hard to get past this kind of reluctance and reflect on possible bias. This is where good second readers and editors can come in — such people can help a writer see where his/her quite possibly unconscious attitudes are shaping the narrative.
@Nancy – I suppose in that case it’s better that ‘definitive’ stories are left to the Goldmans of this world to uncover.
If a biographer is unable to distance himself from the story to the point where he can’t face up to the truth, he has no business to market the story as the definitive one.
In this case, if Lewisohn is going to pretend that John was not a heroin addict, he may as well repackage the project as a book of fairytales.
But then again, John has been dead 40 years, and Lewisohn never knew him. Is it really that plausible for Lewisohn to be so emotionally attached to the image he has of John that he would jeopardise his life’s work?
@Elizabeth, not only is it possible for Lewisohn to be emotionally attached to an image of John, I think it’s absolutely essential that he be, to work on this project. This is an immense undertaking, something that can only be done as an act of love. The money is immaterial — it simply enables the project to be completed.
In case anybody wonders, when you get “a million pound advance” it’s not like someone brings a big bag with a £££ on it and dumps the money on your sofa and you never have to work again. First, your agent takes 10-15% off the top, let’s say that’s £900,000 to keep the math easy. Then, it’s delivered in thirds: 1/3 on acceptance, 1/3 on completion/acceptance of manuscript, 1/3 on publication.
So, Lewisohn received £300,000 on acceptance. This has to last him however many years, and pay for whatever research expenses he might have. He says he spent six years researching the first volume, so that’s a salary of £50,000/year. Then, when Vol. 1 is accepted (surely there was a lot of back and forth), he got another £100,000; and on publication, another £100,000. Then there’s no money until Vol. 2’s accepted (£100,000) and published (£100,000); then Vol. 3.
It’s not a BAD deal, but it’s three books — it’s equivalent to a deal I got in 2004 or so, which kept us from worrying about money, but not living like kings. With a bio, the research time and expenses really eat into it. He will not get rich, not from these doorstops he writes; the only reason Mark Lewisohn could, or should, do this project is if he had a deep emotional connection to the subject. Which means…he will be biased. It’s up to us readers to see where, and point that out.
Michael, agree with you on the need for emotional investment to do a project like Lewisohn’s, and on the money not being enough to do it otherwise. And I agree that it seems likely that multiple factors are at work in Lewisohn’s apparent reluctance to grapple with Lennon’s heroin use.
For clarity overall, I’m NOT against writers having an emotional investment in their subjects, at all. I’m just in favor of the writer’s recognizing that emotional investment and dealing with it forthrightly. And to me there is a big difference between writing a book that is clearly one writer’s “take” on a subject and a book that is claiming to be objective and definitive. In Lewisohn’s case, I’m disappointed in what seems to be mounting evidence that he’s in fact not going to be as objective as I’d hoped.
With you 100%, @Nancy.
“Definitive” is publishing-speak for “long,” right? I plan to take Lewisohn for what he’s good at (fact-ferreting) and wait for a really great prose stylist to tell the story properly after that. It may not happen during my lifetime.
Yeah, I think the main effects of Lewisohn’s long account will be 1) people pulling quotes from it to “prove” whatever their preferred take is and 2) making it more unlikely that anyone else gets the $ to write a competing account.
Indeed. I think his will be the last big biography for at least twenty years.
“Definitive” is nonsense anyway, if the author is biased or not. But in regards to ML – I just do not understand why most people who read the first volume and listened to his interviews still insist that he is totally unbiased.
And unfortunately we are now stuck with his version of the “true” story, even more so than we were for about 20+ years with Shout!. After this, who is going to write another big tome? Who would risk to publish it? Will there still be a market after his final volume comes out in about 2030?
@Jesse – I honestly don’t think it’s possible to write the definitive story about the Beatles.
Too much of the story would rely on uncovering elements that unsavoury members of the British establishment do not want uncovered (Brian Epstein’s dealings with the Krays and his alleged links with the Boothby/Heath paedophile ring ,etc.). There is no way that Lewisohn will be able to unravel this stuff. And that’s before you get to the Process Church/Church of Satan/Kenneth Anger part of the story.
Some of these people are still alive and extremely dangerous. Obviously, Lewisohn was able to uncover information about the early years, but that’s because they were innocent in comparison to what came after.
I don’t think the second volume will ever be finished.
@Nancy, if Lewisohn is having trouble addressing Lennon’s heroin use, there are likely lots of reasons for this. It could be the kind of sentimentality you mention, but I’d bet it’s not just reluctance to “dwell on the negative” regarding one’s heroes. It’s likely also a cultural prejudice (Lewisohn is English) and generational (Lewisohn’s a Baby Boomer, albeit a late one), and rock and roll (our heroes can do drugs and never flounder). John Lennon never ended up in Betty Ford, ergo he wasn’t an alcoholic. He didn’t die in the gutter with a needle in his arm, ergo he wasn’t a junkie. After meeting many people in their 60s and 70s who said they used (and perhaps still use) heroin, I think they come in all shapes and sizes.
Was he using heroin with Bowie? Because he looks just as thin as John in that picture. That could easily be evidence of a macrobiotic diet (which I think is unhealthy in itself) as it is drug addiction.
The question of John’s weight loss is a thorny one. In 1975 (Gruen photo for example) he looks trim, but reasonably like the guy he was as a Beatle. Smoking pulls the weight off, and he smoked like a chimney. Eating macrobiotic doesn’t make you look like John in the late 70s. There’s something else going on there. An eating disorder? A wasting disease (AIDS has been a rumor)?
I can tell you that I was severely undernourished in my late 30s (one meal a day, probably 1500 calories, very restricted diet, digestive system so weak I couldn’t digest a multivitamin), and I never looked gaunt like that. I’ve never done a probiotic diet — now that I can eat, I eat! — but a close friend of mine ate macrobiotic for some time and never even looked thin, much less emaciated. It’s standard rice/veg/some fish.
Take away the expensive haircut and nice clothes, and John at 40 looks easily ten years older, maybe more. My best guess is smoking, cocaine, and an eating disorder, but that may only be part of the story.
Another one from 1979: https://a0.cdn.japantravel.com/photo/12851-73652/800!/nagano-singing-norwegian-wood-at-rizanbo-73652.jpg
@elizabeth Respectfully Paul was suicidal and in a drunken stupor for months after the Beatles broke up but he got over it. John recording a 13 minute audio of his private not so pleasant thoughts doesn’t make him “half dead”. It does seem sometimes like people really want to believe that John was a miserable pathetic mess of human, who died a horrible death. Even though he seemed to love Sean, was repairing his relationship with Julian, enjoyed travelling, contrary to some biographies did venture out the house and socialise, by all accounts from everyone who worked with him on Double Fantasy was happy and productive in the studio in 1980 and regardless of what anyone thinks about his marriage was committed to his wife.
He was on a macrobiotic diet, to the point he wouldn’t let Sean eat any sugar that Sean said he had never tasted coca cola until years after John died, was an excessive smoker, was tall and had been self conscious about his weight for decades. So I think all those things contribute to Johns weight in the 70s. And I’m not a doctor or nutritionist so I can’t say whether he was at a healthy weight or not, but I don’t think he looked half dead either.
As far as I am aware
@LeighAnn – My observation that he looked halfway dead was in reference to the photograph with David Bowie, not the audio recording, which I have no real opinion on.
I stand by that observation. You see it differently, which is your prerogative, but I think you are wrong.
And he looks dapper in the photo (also from 1979) used for that audio recording on YouTube, not a day over 39!
I recently listened to a podcast where John enthuses about a healthy diet and how we should not put any chemicals into our bodies etc, and wondering how that fitted with his heavy smoking of Gitanes, so I did a quick search and found this:
“Macrobiotics (from the Greek for “long life”) is a diet and lifestyle created originally by Japanese writer and guru Nyoichi Sakurazawa (櫻澤如一), better known under the pen name George Ohsawa, and popularized in Western countries by his student Michio Kushi and others. Essentially, the macrobiotic way proposes to break the foods consumed by human beings down into yin and yang according to some arbitrary scheme, then balance out the diet into yin and yang foods and thereby achieve significant life extension.
While Osawa focused on diet as a means by which to promote health, he was a heavy smoker. He even stretched macrobiotic precepts to suggest that the blue or gray smoke coming out the front of a cigarette is yin (cancer-causing), while the yellow or orange smoke coming out the back that the smoker breathes in is yang, which obviously flies in the face of all we know about the dangers of smoking.”
Insert eye roll….
He has a slight point in that second hand smoke is more deadly, but yeah… bad message to be sending his followers.
Perhaps, but everyone is different. According to Healthline, for some people a macrobiotic diet causes too high a reduction in body fat. In some pictures he looks fine, like this one from 1979: https://i.pinimg.com/236x/8d/d9/84/8dd9849c6e50d4960b3f8e3cd5c59a24–john-lennon-beatles-sean-lennon.jpg
Yes, I agree, if you put a big shirt on him, he looks fine. 🙂
I don’t mean to be querulous, I’m trying to establish a baseline to this conversation, so we don’t argue pointlessly. Here’s my perspective: we know what Lennon’s body looks like. In 1975, he’s pretty much the same size and shape he always has been. By 1979, he’s so thin that sometimes it’s hard to look at; in the 1980 interviews, he talks about his weight. YMMV. Rich people were thin then — it was pre-weight training, and lots of smoking and cocaine — but even so, yikes.
I don’t think John Lennon should’ve been on any fad diet. He didn’t have it to lose, and him being on a Zen-inflected fad diet is, to me, another example of Yoko’s lousy spousing. Even so, based on both what I know about the diet, and the people who’ve I’ve known on it, simply a macrobiotic diet was likely not the single cause of his alarming weight loss.
If he was my spouse, I would’ve insisted he see a proper Western doctor, get a bunch of bloodwork, and see a nutritionist! And I speak as someone whom Western medicine could not cure, but Worsley acupuncture could. 🙂 A baseline part of being in a loving adult relationship is taking care of each other, and to my eye he doesn’t look taken care of. He deserved that, we all deserve that.
Considering John had been self conscious about his weight before he had even met Yoko maybe he wanted to lose weight and felt happier. I’m not condoning fad diets and I agree that the best way to lose weight is with consultation with a doctor and a nutritionist. At the same time John was a grown man capable of making his own choices. I don’t think it’s fair to hold Yoko responsible for his body. I mean if you look at pictures of Pattie during her relationship with George she was a skinny woman, but I wouldn’t accuse George of not loving her enough to make her put on weight. Nobody is owned Johns body but John.
I mean I think about Adele and how much weight she lost in a short amount of time and a lot of the tabloids and social media are saying she’s unhealthy or not as attractive now that she’s lost the weight, and yet she seems happier with herself.
@Michael – I agree that John looks terribly ill in that photograph with David Bowie, and in others taken around that time.
I personally don’t think he had a physical illness however, because anyone looking like that in 1978 because they had cancer (for example), but were not receiving treatment for it, would surely be dead by 1979.
His physical state seems to me to reflect a combination of heroin, starvation and utter despair/depression.
@Michael- I anticipated you were going to say that. His face doesn’t look as gaunt, though. If that were someone I saw on the street, I wouldn’t find his appearance alarming. Not to defend Yoko because the zen diet was her idea I’m sure, but I wouldn’t be so quick to accuse her of deliberately letting John waste away. When you are with someone every day, the changes in that person’s body/appearance/age isn’t as striking as when you see someone for the first time in years.
@Michelle, conversations like this always give me a bit of a pain.
I don’t WANT to think John was painfully thin in the late 70s and 1980. I don’t WANT to think that Yoko was so checked-out of their marriage that she didn’t say, “Hey, dude, husband, love of my life, maybe eat more/quit with the cocaine/quit with the smoking/go see a regular doctor/etc.” I don’t WANT to think that skinny John sure seems like he has body dysmorphia when he quotes some reporter from 15 years ago saying he looked fat in 1965.
I don’t WANT to believe Goldman when he describes Lennon binging and purging. I don’t want to quote the cops who lifted him up on December 8th saying how frail he was, so much so that “his bones creaked.” I don’t WANT to link to an earlier Dullblog post showing a painting of Lennon from 1980 that makes him look skeletal. All this UPSETS me. It UPSETS me to think that he was unhappy, unhealthy, in need of basic nutrition or mental health care. This guy was precious–we’re all precious. Someone should’ve helped him. We all need help, even (or especially) people in his position.
This is Lennon in 1975. This is Lennon in 1980. See the diff? This is simply not a matter of debate, and before you say, “Well people photograph differently” just type “John Lennon thin” into Google images and have a look. “Why was John Lennon so thin?” is such a common question there’s actually a Quora about it.
So, really: I’m NOT trying to convince you of anything…but neither am I going to disbelieve my eyes just because I like John and his music.
Nearly any opinion is OK on this site, except for blindly defending the myths that we KNOW are myths. Lennon’s your guy, that’s fine, he’s my guy, too. And if he’s your goddamn guy, get mad at the absolutely crap way people treated him. Who let him get so skinny? Who isolated him so completely that he didn’t even have a close friend to sign his goddamn will? Who encouraged him to dismiss his bodyguard? This could all be one person, or a bunch of people, but it adds up to a consistent pattern of neglect. Of course we’d all prefer to believe the Ballad of John and Yoko! But that’s not what happened, and if he had to go through it, we should at least bear witness to it.
I really appreciate that we can talk about John’s weight, disordered eating, and dysphoria here, @Michael Gerber. In so many ways John Lennon was an absolutely textbook case.
Indeed, @Annie M, and one of the most helpful things stars can do is help us mere mortals accept ourselves. I don’t know if John Lennon had anorexia/bulimia, body dysphoria, or anything like that — I’m not a doctor. But it sure seems like it, and I’d rather err on the side of addressing that. In part out of respect for him and his struggles (the details of which only he knew), but also in part for the living fans who might be a bit more likely to accept themselves as a result.
But I spoke too heatedly to @Michelle — I am sorry for that.
@Michelle, reading this back I feel it’s too “hot”; my anger is/was not at you AT ALL, but at the people around John Lennon who didn’t help him, and at John himself for lacking certain types of courage that he so desperately needed. It was all just such a shame.
I do worry that if we accept the standard story, we normalize the mistreatment in it. We can lionize Yoko for managing John’s business well, but we should also see how…her husband didn’t seem to be thriving. That’s there, too.
Anyway: genuine apologies.
Apology accepted @Michael Gerber, even though I didn’t take it the wrong way. It’s great that you care so much about John.
Good, I’m glad. And I very much do care about that fellow I never met!
I lived with him every day for two years, and that was after being a huge fan from age 5 on. Living with him as I wrote, I got a chance to really examine his later life in detail (I had to, because that was the premise of my book), and what I found…I ached for the guy. He was lonely, and didn’t have or refused to use the tools at his disposal (therapy, couples therapy, really effective treatment for his addictions and disorders). His fame was a trap; the public story he’d created hemmed him in.
I came away thinking that, all things considered, John Lennon had done a really great job with a very difficult life–even if all the terrible things are true. Because all the wonderful things are, too. Whatever I say on this site, everybody please try to keep this basic warts-and-all affection in mind. Not just for John; for everybody in this story.
John looked especially tall and lanky in 1979-80, but not always emaciated: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/05/fb/b9/05fbb9b506df702a5b745b67d952628a.jpg
@Michelle – please don’t take this the wrong way. I have no interest whatsoever in fighting with you, and I don’t want to get drawn into a back and forth that ends up monopolising the comments section of this board. However, I have to ask: are you primarily a fan of John Lennon or a fan of Yoko Ono?
You see, I’m not a sentimental person at all. I had a fairly tough upbringing, which I suppose made me resilient. Hard, if you like. But hard as I am, I cannot look at that photograph of John Lennon – a man I did not know personally – without wanting to cry. My reaction to it is – oh my God, that poor man. What the hell was happening to him? Your reaction, on the other hand, is to immediately challenge my reaction, rather than react to the photograph itself, which most people would do in a visceral way. I find that very interesting, and I notice that you do it a lot.
Not that there is anything wrong with being primarily a Yoko fan or defender, or whatever. Everyone is free to make their own mind up about who they admire. But I do struggle to understand how ‘caring about John’ can be reconciled with ignoring the reality of this type of photographic evidence simply because it contradicts the official narrative.
I’m a Beatles fan first and foremost. I’m especially a fan of John Lennon and by extension whoever he chose to be with. It’s rather insulting to him to think he couldn’t make his own decisions. If he said he was happy during his life with Yoko, who am I to question that? You are free to speculate otherwise, as I have at times, but we should accept that it’s nothing more than that.
Did it occur to folks that perhaps Lewisohn requires more than hearsay or the eye test to write “definitively” that John was a chronic heroin user?
Michelle, my issue with Lewisohn’s comments about Lennon’s heroin use is that Lewisohn seems to be going out of his way to claim that Lennon was NOT regularly/chronically/addictively using heroin. And that claim is at odds with what we know about how heroin works in the overwhelming majority of cases. My concern (as I’ve said before) is more about giving people the perception that it’s possible to use heroin “socially,” as it were. Don’t try that at home, folks.
I get what you’re saying. He should have quit while he was ahead rather than elaborate on something he obviously is not an expert on. At least he said it in an interview and not in the book itself.
@Michelle – We’re all human, and we all have frailties and vulnerabilities. It isn’t insulting to anyone to acknowledge that; on the contrary, it’s empathetic and compassionate.
If you believe the official narrative because you think it’s what John wanted, that is absolutely your prerogative. I don’t agree with you, but I respect your right not to question the party line. However, I think you should also respect the right of others not to share that opinion, and not seek to close down conversations which raise awkward questions.
The estate of John Lennon is extremely powerful; it does not need anyone here to act as its mouthpiece.
@elizabeth said: “I don’t think the second volume will ever be finished.”
Why do you say that, Elizabeth?
@Annie M – I think there are a lot of powerful people who want to keep information about the Krays’ links to the British establishment buried. There’s no way of writing a definitive book about the Beatles without bringing the Krays into it. They weren’t just involved in murder or protection rackets – they were allegedly supplying underage boys to members of the British elite and others.
Jimmy Savile, Chris Denning, Jonathan King – all these men had links to Epstein, and there were many others. If Lewisohn doesn’t have the stomach to address John’s heroin addiction, I doubt whether he would want to open that can of worms. Frankly, I doubt he would dare.
How come I never heard of the Krays? They’re more famous than Lennon-McCartney, apparently.
@Michelle – I would say that the Krays are as well known as Lennon/McCartney, in the UK in any case. I’m very surprised that you haven’t heard of them – it’s a bit like saying you haven’t heard of Al Capone.
I’m in the US (Gen X) and must admit I’d never heard of the Krays till last year, when I was reading about David Bailey. 60s Swinging London sounds very incestuous. (And add me to the list of people who’d be fascinated to hear about their connection to Epstein/The Beatles/etc.)
@Kristy, wealth and power is always incestuous.
Hi. I have been following this blog for about a month now and I find it to be a breath of fresh air when it comes to the Beatle forums. I’ve been a huge fan of Paul Mccartney since I was a kid. I didn’t know much about the Beatles, but I always thought associated the band with Paul. I didn’t know anything about George and Ringo. I associated John Lennon with his activism in the U.S. and his song Imagine. I didn’t even know that he and Paul knew each other, let alone that they were part of the same band. I found this out late last year. It has been quite the ride learning about the history of the Beatles. I’m looking forward to Peter Jackson’s new movie. I loved the work he did with LotR and I believe his new project going to be good.
It makes me wonder how Epstein ever came to be involved with people like them. It’s scary when you think about it. I hope Lewisohn has the courage to talk about this. I think there are a lot of lies about the history of the Beatles and I hope that someone comes along that won’t be intimidated. I have hope, because of the reporters and journalists that were able to bring down Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein.
Welcome, Kir! I’d like to recommend a couple of other great resources if you don’t mind. There’s a website about Beatles historiography (https://beatlebioreview.wordpress.com) and a podcast called Another Kind of Mind. The websi
Thank you! I’ve heard of that blog. I love that one too. I haven’t heard of the podcast, so I’m going to check it out. If you have any more recs, let me know.
is a good one, too.
Hopping in to recommend thecoleopterawithana.tumblr.com as well 🙂
They’ve gone on semi hiatus seemingly, just photos in the most recent pages. Go back about 10 pages to get to more meat. And their tagging system is a thing of beauty! Have fun 🙂
Hi Kir – Sadly, I think the entertainment industry was run by people like this. To some extent it still is, though of course things are starting to change for the better.
It’s what happens when narcissistic people under the influence of God knows what substances, get too much power and think they can act with impunity.
You should look back through the various topics on here – I believe there was one on decadence, which touched on some of this.
Thanks. I’ll check it out.
I agree. I would also like to add that this can also happen when people choose to turn a blind eye, instead of addressing the problem before it gets out of control.
@Michelle said: “At least he said it in an interview and not in the book itself.”
…Not to state the obvious, but _Tune In_ ends years before John’s heroin period. We’ll have to wait and see what he actually writes in the actually relevant book before we pat him on the back.
Annie, saw your request to move your comment, but mods can’t do that, unfortunately!
Of course. I didn’t so much as flip through his book myself. I feel like I know everything there is to know on the Beatles that biographers are willing to write. All we’re left with anymore is the author’s spin, in whatever direction. Forgot that Lewisohn takes decades to cover a small segment of Beatles history. But I wasn’t patting him on the back, just not accusing him of something he hasn’t done yet. People say all kinds of rubbish in interviews. I highly doubt that Lewisohn is going to actually write that heroin is harmless in his future volume on the Beatles. At worst, he’ll give no more than a passing mention to John’s heroin use, which you could say is whitewashing for sure but not irresponsible which is what Nancy had a problem with.
What really stood out to me from Lewisohn’s quote, Michelle, is his saying that “Cold Turkey” suggested that Lennon was addicted to heroin. In addition to this song, Lennon talked directly and unambiguously about having to kick the drug, which Lewisohn also seems to be ignoring. In my opinion downplaying Lennon’s heroin use is irresponsible in the same way that downplaying McCartney’s heavy use of marijuana for years is irresponsible. You can’t tell the full story of either man’s life or career without acknowledging the drug use and its effects.
Thank you. I’ll check it out.
I agree. I would like to add that this also happens, when people choose to turn a blind eye instead of addressing the issue before it becomes too big to control.
Someone at Vanity Fair got a look at the whole thing:
Thanks for the link! I couldn’t help notice Ringo messing with Paul’s bass – payback for Paul messing with his drums? ,0)
I can’t wait to see this movie! My 26-year-old son is driving 300 miles just so we can go see it together. (OK, we’ll have dinner too plus he gets to visit with the family dog, but it’s the motivating event.)
It’s odd that the story still seems to be that George quit after an argument with Paul when it’s been established that it was after an off-screen argument John. And that Paul is said to have criticized George to kick things off, contradicting what I’ve read about their “very English” argument. It’s not as if the two didn’t argue or that Paul never criticized George, but still…
Pattie has said George didn’t want her to come to the rooftop concert because it was just work (a feasible unhappy-George sentiment). But I can’t imagine why Linda, being a Beatles fan, wasn’t there.
Thanks for posting that @Sam.
November cannot arrive quickly enough! Really like the fact that even Paul is a Beatles fan.
Thanks for posting @hologramsam I’m pumped that they are doing a three part. I just wish they would stop teasing the bloody thing and release it! Especially after it was suppose to be released last year. What is Disney waiting for? But as they say about beggars…
Anywho as an aside I wanted to share this truly awesome photo of the Beatles I found on Instagram that is simultaneously cool and hilarious to me:
Agree about the release date. If it’s finished there are millions of fans/scholars/interested parties who are ready to see this now. Stringing it out until late Autumn borders on cruelty. It is not as if they have to slot it into theaters or against a competing major release. They know who the viewers are going to be.
@Annie, I can’t reply any further, but great find on the McCartney/heroin thing. That doesn’t surprise me, either — losing the Beatles (and Lennon and Harrison) seems understandably disastrous for Paul, and even with his more stable and (dare I say) mature personality, he was a rock star who grew up in Liverpool in the 40s and 50s. That combination means he would have known of approximately two ways to deal with overwhelming grief and depression – substances, and sex. It also makes sense to me that heroin didn’t do anything for him — if he loves weed so much, Paul’s seeking calm, not oblivion.
I truly put a great deal of thought into this, thank you for taking note.
Very much appreciated, @Julliemak.